Nicola Sturgeon rumbled over SNP claim Tories will ‘claw back’ £500 for Scots NHS workers

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Nicola Sturgeon announced NHS staff and social care workers will receive the one-off payment from the Scottish Government as a “thank you”. But the SNP’s Alison Thewliss questioned whether the festive gift would be “clawed back by HMRC”. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steven Barclay shut down her claims as he explained Scotland receives the income tax on the payments.

Speaking in Parliament, Ms Thewliss said: “Yesterday Scotland’s First Minister announced her intention to award a £500 thank you payment to Scottish health and social care staff in recognition of all they have done.

“Powers of tax allowances and exemptions are reserved for the UK Government so will the Chancellor do the right thing and ensure this festive gift of goodwill is not clawed back by HMRC?”

Mr Barclay replied: “As the Honourable Lady should know the income tax on these payments is actually paid to Scotland, not to Westminster.

“The Scottish government has the power and the funding to gross up the payment if it wishes.

“For the UK Government, we’ve provided over £8.2billion of extra funding for the Scottish government this year to support people, businesses and public services.”

Ms Sturgeon said applause and recognition shown to frontline workers earlier in the pandemic “was never enough”.

Negotiations are currently underway to increase pay for NHS staff, but they “deserve recognition now”, Ms Sturgeon said.

“I can announce today that, on behalf of us all, the Scottish Government will give every full-time NHS and adult social care worker #500 as a one-off thank-you payment for their extraordinary service in this toughest of years.”

The First Minister added there were “no strings attached” to the payment.

However, the First Minister said the Scottish Government did not have the power to make the payment tax-free and she called on Boris Johnson to ensure “NHS heroes” are not taxed on their payment.

Ms Sturgeon on Monday ramped up her calls for a new Scottish independence referendum, declining to rule out another vote next year and hinting she might go to court for permission to hold one if London tried to block it.

Scots rejected independence in 2014 but Brexit and the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for secession, with most polls showing a majority now favour breaking away from the United Kingdom.

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Elections to Scotland’s devolved parliament will take place in May, and SNP is expected to perform strongly, which it argues would be a mandate for another independence referendum.

In a speech to the SNP’s virtual conference, Sturgeon said she wanted Scots to back the call to hold another vote “for a legal independence referendum to be held in the early part of the new parliament”.

Speaking in earlier interviews, she declined to rule out a possible vote in autumn 2021. “I’m not ruling anything out, I’m not ruling anything in,” she told Sky News.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the 2014 vote in which Scots voted 55-45 percent against independence was a decisive once in a generation event and his government says there should not be another referendum in the near future.

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