Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside, addresses the Scottish Parliament on 23 February. Watch the video below and click "read more" to view the text of the speech.
- The Presiding Officer: You will have the opportunity to return to that issue in about four minutes’ time, Mr Brown. [Laughter.]
I call Mark McDonald. You have four minutes, but you could perhaps push it to five.
- Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP): Oh, gosh. I am now under pressure to give Gavin Brown time to collect his thoughts for his summing-up speech, and perhaps—who knows?—to give him some content for it.
There are a few points that need to be highlighted. The committee took a great deal of evidence in a very short space of time, and some of the evidence that we received was very interesting. Jackie Baillie asked whether the bill was just one that was designed to generate more revenue. That belies the fact that the genesis of the bill lay in a desire to ensure, first, that a policy change at UK level would not have a detrimental impact and, secondly, that first-time buyers would be protected against buy-to-let investment.
A point that I made in my intervention on Gavin Brown—this is something that I became slightly frustrated by during the course of the committee’s evidence taking—is that a great deal of certainty was being derived from supposition and anecdotal evidence. There did not seem to be a lot of hard data and empirical evidence to back it up. That made it very difficult for the committee to reach a true value judgment on some of the issues that were raised by the witnesses who appeared before us.
That is why it is critical, as Gavin Brown said, that we get some more data to serve as a bedrock for analysis of impacts on the housing market. As the policy rolls out alongside LBTT over a period of time, we will have the opportunity to bottom out forestalling effects and other variations. That will give us a better idea of the impact and will help us to build a slightly better picture of what is happening in the housing market.
We had some discussion about how to deal with reliefs in the committee report, but it does go into great detail about the range of reliefs that have been suggested from various quarters. In bringing in any system of reliefs, there is an inherent risk of creating significant loopholes that could undermine the policy intention of the legislation. The committee has very properly asked the Scottish Government for its view on the basket of reliefs, but at the same time it has focused on a couple of specific reliefs that it feels are necessary. The Deputy First Minister has responded very fairly to those suggestions.
The third issue that I have wrestled with and which I mentioned during evidence taking at committee is the flexibility that the process that we currently go through in Parliament affords to the Scottish Government. That point does not necessarily relate to this specific piece of legislation. Let us compare the flexibility afforded to the Scottish Government in announcing or reacting to tax changes with that afforded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The chancellor can stand up at his dispatch box and announce a change that will take effect at midnight that evening, should he choose to do so, but under the processes in this Parliament the Scottish Government has to signal its intention some months in advance of changes taking place. We can compare the opportunity that our process allows for behavioural change and forestalling to take place with that which exists at Westminster.
That is something that needs to be explored in more detail in future, perhaps by a successor finance committee, but it would also be welcome in the next session of Parliament to get some more thinking from the Scottish Government on the issue.
The main thrust of LBTT is that, first and foremost, first-time buyers are protected in terms of their purchases.
I see from the Presiding Officer that, despite being told that I could push my speech to five minutes, I am now being told to hurry up. I will do so.
When LBTT was first proposed, I noted that one of its intentions was to stimulate purchases at the lower end of the market. Anecdotally, estate agents in my constituency tell me that they are seeing a stimulation of the market at the lower end. I am confident that that is happening, but I think that the bill is a necessary measure to ensure that that situation is protected.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
- The Presiding Officer: Thank you, Mr McDonald. You actually got to four minutes and 45 seconds, so you did quite well. We now go to the wind-up speeches—Gavin Brown has four minutes.
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