Douglas Ross has said the SNP must top up its £500 “thank-you” payment for NHS and social care staff immediately and stop playing politics with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Scottish Conservative leader made his demand after Nicola Sturgeon called on the UK Government to make the payment tax free.
His plea came after the respected economic think-tank the Fraser of Allander Institute argued that it would be “far easier” for the SNP to ensure the workers receive £500 by increasing the gross payment.
A blog published by the institute also said there was a “healthy dose of politics” in Ms Sturgeon’s tax free call and pointed out that much of income tax is devolved to Scotland.
The Conservatives argued increasing the payment to £625 would give NHS workers the full £500 and the Scottish Government would receive the £125 back in income tax.
The SNP are pushing for indyref2 in the middle of a pandemic and creating a political bunfight out of thin air. As the Fraser of Allander Institute have now made clear, this is all a political game from the SNP. They’ve dialled nationalist grievances up to 11.”
Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader
Mr Ross also claimed the “thank-you” payments have been funded by Rishi Sunak’s Covid spending guarantees, which have added nearly £10 billion to the Scottish Budget.
The £500 payment was one of Ms Sturgeon’s key announcements at this week’s SNP conference, where Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the Scottish Government would not be imposing a public sector pay freeze.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is unable to give pay rises to all those working in the public sector in England, although more than one million NHS staff would get an increase along with the poorer paid in the public sector.
‘A clearly political move’
Mr Ross said: “The SNP have all the funding and powers they need to top up this payment today. Any extra income tax would go to the Scottish, not the UK Government, so if they increase it, no-one misses out.
“Why is it that the SNP feel the need to take a £500 NHS ‘thank-you’ payment and stoke up division with such a clearly political move, all to provoke a fight with the UK Government?
“The SNP are pushing for indyref2 in the middle of a pandemic and creating a political bunfight out of thin air. As the Fraser of Allander Institute have now made clear, this is all a political game from the SNP. They’ve dialled nationalist grievances up to 11.”
Mr Ross added: “So my message to Nicola Sturgeon is, put your political guns away, apologise for trying to politicise the efforts of health and social care workers, and top up this payment immediately.”
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.