Rennie Calls For Oil Industry Tax Cuts

26 August 2015, 07:06

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for tax cuts for the oil industry and low and middle earners in an attempt to steer a centrist path through the left and right-leaning policies of his opponents.

Labour and the SNP are in "a fight to the death'' to dominate the socialist left while the Conservatives would steer Scotland to the right with their tax and welfare proposals, Mr Rennie is expected to tell an audience in Aberdeen.

The Liberal Democrats' solution is to call for a corporation tax cut for the oil industry to boost investment and exploration.

He is also offering lower bottom rate income tax to ensure low and middle earners can keep more of their money.

In advance extracts of his speech at a Scottish Council for Development and Industry event in Aberdeen, Mr Rennie said: "Whether Jeremy Corbyn wins or not, it is abundantly clear that the Labour Party is heading leftwards and, in Scotland, will embark on a fight to the death with the Scottish National Party to be the dominant force on the socialist left.

"The Conservatives, being true to their path, are taking the government further to the right without the restraint and radicalism of the Liberal Democrats.

"In Scotland they are showing every indication that they will use the new taxation and welfare powers to propose a right-wing shift here as well.

"The need for a radical, liberal centre-ground force in politics has never been greater.''

He said Scotland has the comparative and technical advantage over other countries with big industries like renewable energy, food and drink, life sciences and tourism, but faces some big challenges.

"One of the biggest is that facing the oil industry,'' he said.

"The broad shoulders of the United Kingdom means we can be flexible to provide a taxation regime that incentivises industry investment.

"We can do that without a dramatic impact on the funding of our schools, hospitals, universities and other public services.

"We can focus on the jobs and economic crisis instead of the double blow that we would see with a financial crisis if Scotland were to leave the UK family of nations.

"We know the UK introduced tax allowances in the last autumn statement and delivered further changes in the spring budget.

"In addition to the cut in the supplementary charge on corporation tax, the new allowances for cluster areas, basin wide investment and survey exploration will assist the sector.

"The UK Government must continue to work in partnership with Oil and Gas UK and the new, unified regulator to provide a stable, financial regime for the sector to maximise the opportunities.

"This should include further adjustments in corporation tax to incentivise exploration for new fields and extraction in fields that might otherwise not be financially viable.''

Mr Rennie is also offering "lower taxes on income to make sure work always pays and that people on low and middle incomes keeping more of what they earn''.

He said: "This is the balanced offer. The balance between the economic discipline we know we need and the social justice that is necessary.

"It is the liberal, radical, centre ground offer that has a yawning space in our political spectrum.''