Tele column – 24th November 2017

Ask any politician why they got into politics and the answer will be that they wanted to serve their community and to make a difference. 

In May 2015 I was elected alongside 55 other SNP colleagues. For two years we lobbied, cajoled, encouraged and when necessary demanded that Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were exempt from VAT. All our approaches were dismissed off hand. The situation arose because the various forces in Scotland were merged into one police force and one fire service. A legal anomaly meant that as a result of this change, they became liable to pay VAT.

There was a reasonable assumption that the UK Government would do the decent thing and remove the VAT liability. They refused, meaning Scotland’s police and fire services were the only such bodies in the UK being forced to pay VAT.

The SNP made 140 separate approaches to the Conservative Government regarding this issue. They have only now decided to overturn the tax liability because they can use it as a political point scoring exercise.

I am delighted that they have finally seen sense and will remove the VAT obligation but they have shamed themselves by claiming that the change occurred because of the 13 newly elected Scottish Conservative MPs.

By taking this stance Phillip Hammond is not serving the communities of Scotland, he is simply serving the Conservative Party.

This decision could and should have been made three years ago but it wasn’t politically expedient and as a result Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire Service have been wrongly discriminated against – to the cost of £140 million.