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Sturgeon scurries left to halt Labour revival.

Byline: Torcuil Crichton THE HEART OF POLITICS follow @torcuil

WELL, this is going to be interesting. Having broken out of the constitutional straitjacket, for now at least, the Holyrood focus may finally shift on to what kind of country devolutionary Scotland could be.

Scots went to the polls for nationwide elections in all but one of the last seven years.

The country became democracy's testing ground for the post-crash anger which resulted in huge swings against the old order, towards independence as the tide surged and ebbed for nationalism.

Having been the lab for the kind of post-truth, anti-politics that put Donald Trump in the White House, Scotland could now be the test bed for what happens next.

Nicola Sturgeon's programme for government - radical or retread depending on which side of the schism you fall on - was notable in many ways.

The conversion to green politics is welcome, though only an acknowledgement that she needs more than SNP votes at Holyrood to have a chance at a second referendum.

The cars might be going electric, but the satnav is still set for independence.

Meanwhile, fear of that other force of anti-politics, the Corbyn phenomenon, sent Sturgeon tacking to the left.

The First Minister carefully laid out plans for raising personal taxes to help pay for the kind of country politicians so often say they aspire to.

Tax rises will not go down well in wealthy parts of rural Scotland and could entrench recent Tory gains, leaving senior party figures like John Swinney uncomfortable.

But talk of taxing the rich could make a crucial difference in the west of Scotland when the SNP squares up to a revived Corbynista Labour party.

It won't be the rich who are taxed, of course. A 50p tax rate for those earning over PS150,000 would leave the wealthy shifting their tax arrangements to offshore England.

They'd fall off what economists call the Laffer curve, which is not a joke but the point on the graph when higher taxes result in a lower tax yield. When France's socialist president Francois Hollande tried a 75 per cent supertax on millionaires, Gerard Depardieu left the country and footballers threatened to go on strike. It was dropped.

After the 2008 banking crash, nearly all governments had to raise taxes and cut spending in one way or another.

Some, like Greece, had tax rises forced on them, but few have contemplated a straight-up rise in income tax as Sturgeon suggests.

Middle-class Scots are taxed more anyway, PS400 a year more than those in England because the 40 per cent tax band has been frozen at PS43,000 a year.

Few complain, maybe because there isn't an English Nationalist Party rubbing their noses in it all the time.

But when do middle-class Scots fall off the SNP's Laffer curve - PS800, PS1000, higher, lower? Sturgeon is to approach tax reform with an "open mind", for which read either timid or brave.

She must calculate Ruth Davidson could benefit from a middle-class tax revolt, which is why she wants crossparty agreement on the careful steps forward.

The middle class have been the big winners of the first two decades of devolution. Now as Holyrood squares up to the next steps, they might be asked to start paying up for Scotland.

If Scots want to be the progressive nation we tell ourselves we want to be, politicians will have to put people's money where their mouths are.



CHANGE OF TAX First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 8, 2017
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