Changes To Homes Tax Rates Due

Finance Secretary John Swinney will announce changes to the proposed new tax rates for buying a home when the Budget is debated at Holyrood today.

Mr Swinney announced at the weekend that he would reconsider the bands and rates for the new devolved Land and Buildings Transaction Tax set out in October's draft 2015-16 Budget.

The levy, which will replace stamp duty in Scotland from April, has been branded a "tax on aspiration'' by the Conservatives who have criticised it for imposing higher rates on properties at the top end of the market.

The party wants to see the proposed 10% rate on homes between £250,000 and £500,000 halved, claiming it will hit middle-income families.

Mr Swinney's review follows an overhaul of the UK stamp duty system announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement.

The Finance Secretary said that at the time of his original proposals, 90% of homebuyers would have been better or no worse off in the new Scottish system but this has now dropped to 80%.

Under the current plans, someone buying a home worth £350,000 would pay £12,300 under LBTT, compared with £7,500 under the stamp duty system.

Mr Swinney will announce the conclusions of his review to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament before a Stage 1 debate on the Budget Bill.

Speaking ahead of the debate, he also reaffirmed the Scottish Government's commitment to increased funding of the NHS.

He said: "Spending on Scotland's health service will increase in real terms next year, taking Scottish health spending above £12 billion for the first time.

"The overall increase of £380 million in health resource spending will take the total health budget to record levels.

"The Scottish Government's commitment to increase the NHS budget demonstrates a continuing commitment to protecting the health service, and keep it in public hands.''

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will use the debate to call for the NHS, mental health, childcare and colleges to be put at the heart of the Budget.

He has written to Mr Swinney setting out the party's proposals, which include emergency funding for the NHS, equal treatment of mental and physical health and extending free childcare provision to more two-year-olds.

The party also wants "fairer'' funding for colleges and for the threshold for the repayment of student loans to be raised.

Mr Rennie's letter said: "Our hopes for the 2015-16 Budget centre around proposals that will help build a stronger economy and a fairer society. Importantly they are about providing opportunity for everyone to get on in life.''