Scotland politics

Scotland's budget: what does it mean for me?

Pound coins

The changes to the income tax system in the Scottish budget mean almost everyone in the country will notice some difference in their lives. But what other big measures were in there, and exactly what will it mean for you?

Income tax

The most significant change is the move to a five-band income tax system.

Scottish Budget

New Income Tax rates


New intermediate tax rate from £24,001 to £44,273

  • 19p Starter rate from £11,850 to £13,850

  • 20p Basic rate from £13,851 to £24,000

  • 41p Higher rate from £44,274 to £150,000

  • 46p Additional rate from £150,000

This isn't just as simple as lower earners getting a tax cut, while the better off pay more.

Because the higher-rate threshold is rising by the rate of inflation, people earning £50,000 in Scotland will actually be £85 better off in 2018-19 than they were the previous year - the rising threshold means less of their income is being taxed at the higher rate.

However, because Chancellor Philip Hammond rose those thresholds even further in the rest of the UK, someone earning the same amount outwith Scotland would be £655 better off.

Confused yet? Well, accountancy body ICAS has examined how things break down for different income groups - both compared to the current situation, and to how things will be in the rest of the UK.

Overall, 70% of Scottish taxpayers will pay less than they do at present, while 55% will pay less than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK. That does, of course, mean 30% will pay more than they did last year - and 45% will pay more than they would if they lived south of the border.

Income Comparison to 2017-18 Impact relative to rUK
£15,000 £90 £20
£20,000 £90 £20
£26,000 £70 £0
£33,000 £0 -£70
£35,000 -£20 -£90
£40,000 -£70 -£140
£50,000 £85 -£655
£60,000 -£15 -£755
£75,000 -£165 -£905
£100,000 -£415 -£1,155
£120,000 -£715 -£1,455
£150,000 -£1,174 -£1,774

Be warned, however, that these might not be the final figures - there's still the matter of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay finding someone to vote for his budget.

He had also planned to raise the higher rate threshold by the rate of inflation in his previous budget, but agreed to freeze it to fund a deal with the Greens - don't rule out that happening again this time round.

Public sector pay

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If you work in the public sector, there was some (reasonably) good news in the budget - the 1% pay cap is over.

How much your pay goes up will depend on how much you earn, though, as Mr Mackay complains his hands are tied by the Treasury.

  • Those earning £30,000 or less are guaranteed a 3% pay rise
  • Those earning more than £30,000 will see a 2% pay rise
  • Those earning more than £80,000 will see increases capped at £1,600

So those on the very highest salaries at councils won't be getting as much extra pay - a move Mr Mackay said "demonstrates our commitment to closing the gap between the lowest and highest paid".

One more bit of small print - this applies to workers in the NHS, police officers and firefighters, and teachers - but for council employees, the budget document stresses that "pay and other employment matters are delegated to local authorities".

Childcare and education

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Successive Scottish government budgets have boosted the number of hours of free childcare, and this was no different.

By 2020, parents in Scotland will now be entitled to 1,140 hours of free childcare per year - so 30 hours a week - with Mr Mackay ploughing a further £243m towards this.

He has also targeted £59m of attainment funding at support for children and young people from the most deprived households, and put £88m of local government funding towards maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio.

For older learners, student tuition is still funded, while Mr Mackay pledged a "real terms increase" in funding for universities and colleges via the Scottish Funding Council.

First-time buyers

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One of the few surprises in Philip Hammond's Autumn budget was a boost for first-time buyers, wiping out stamp duty for purchases up to £300,000.

Mr Mackay has sought to follow this lead, introducing a relief on the Scottish equivalent tax, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), up to £175,000 - up from the present threshold of £145,000.

Yes, that's still less than the UK figure - but so is the average property price north of the border, so Mr Mackay's figure should cover most properties in most areas of Scotland, excluding the very priciest (like Edinburgh).

He says 80% of first-time buyers in Scotland will pay no LBTT at all now, and all will see the tax they would have to pay reduced.

Small business owners

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For those who own small businesses, the small business bonus scheme has been continued, lifting 100,000 business properties out of rates altogether.

Mr Mackay says the package for the coming year is worth £720m.

In addition, the finance secretary confirmed that the inflationary uplift in the poundage rate of business tax will be capped at the consumer-price rate of inflation (CPI), not the retail price index rate (RPI).

The CPI rate is traditionally lower, as it takes it a different range of products - meaning businesses are likely to see their rates increases capped at a lower level.

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