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FIRMS that avoid paying taxes by storing their wealth in offshore tax havens will not receive handouts from the Scottish government to help them get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Scottish Greens tabled an amendment to the Coronavirus Scotland No 2 Bill to legislate for the exemption, which was supported by the government and voted through as the Star went to press last night.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Any company which avoids its responsibility to contribute to society should not be getting handouts when things go wrong. That’s why many European nations and Wales have already made this commitment.”
He said that he hoped the decision would mark “the beginning of a new approach to tackling the companies which shamelessly avoid paying tax.
“It’s time for these companies and their owners to face up to their responsibilities. ‘Business as usual’ was causing poverty, inequality and environmental destruction, and it didn’t provide an adequate safety net for people in insecure jobs and homes. That needs to change.”
Tax Justice Network’s chief executive Alex Cobham said: “Patrick Harvie’s amendment is comprehensive and sets a clear narrative: it would no longer be acceptable, within Scotland, for companies to claim public support while using tax havens to dodge their own responsibilities.”
Scotland follows the lead of Wales, which announced last week that Covid-19 support will not be extended to companies based in tax havens.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “In 2014 I moved an amendment to do exactly what has been achieved today by a cross-party group of MSPs.
“At that time Nicola Sturgeon was the lead minister on the Bill, who ordered her compliant MSPs to oppose my proposal on tax justice. It’s a shame it has taken six years of claiming they didn’t have the powers — and being shamed into it by the move by Labour in Wales — to get the SNP to act.”
Welsh Economic Minister Ken Skates said: “I think it’s right, when you face a crisis and you spend much money in addressing the economic and health implications of that crisis, that businesses that don’t pay tax shouldn’t benefit from interventions the government is making.
“I’d like to see this sort of approach extended right across the United Kingdom. I think it makes sense. It demonstrates to the people of the United Kingdom as well that we are not going to go back to ‘business as usual’ after this crisis.”
However, the Westminster government has yet to adopt the policy in England, despite calls in a letter by 30 MPs, including Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Apsana Begum, Zarah Sultana and Claudia Webbe alongside SNP, Plaid and Lib Dem members.
In England, multibillion-pound companies, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, have pleaded for state funds to prop up their ailing prospects during the coronavirus pandemic.
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