Sturgeon calls for more Holyrood powers to crack down on tax avoidance

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The First Minister has called for parties across Holyrood to join a call for full devolution of powers over tax avoidance and evasion to Scotland to enable the “crackdown people want” following the Paradise Papers expose.

The Paradise Papers leak revealed how global firms, celebrities and others had used complex accounting structures including offshore tax havens to cut their tax bills.

At First Minister’s Questions, the SNP’s Christine Grahame said three stars of BBC sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys should consider barring themselves from using health services following allegations they “squirrelled away” more than £2 million in an offshore tax avoidance scheme, which she said was “disgusting”.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “People should pay the taxes that they are due to pay. Paying tax is the collective duty that we have to make sure that we have public services that are there for all of us when we need them.”

She said HMRC estimates showed the Treasury lost £6.9 billion through tax evasion and avoidance in 2015/16, £1.7 billion through the latter, and it was a matter of “regret and shame” the UK Government had not cracked down on it.

Conservative Murdo Fraser said the tax gap in the UK is 6% and is amongst the lowest in the world.

He asked if the Scottish Government regrets paying £10 million to Amazon, “a company which hardly has an excellent record when it comes to paying tax”.

Labour’s James Kelly called on the First Minister to call in and cancel any public contracts where firms have participated in tax avoidance.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We call on all companies, Amazon included, to pay their due tax and we call on the UK Government where power on this lies to take the action to ensure that people pay the tax that is due.”

She added: “I really wish this parliament had more power in this area then we do.

“Unfortunately we don’t, so let those of us who think that is wrong come together, firstly to demand that the UK Government takes action that it has so far dragged its feet on taking, but perhaps ultimately calling for these powers to lie in the hands of this parliament so we can have the crackdown that people want.”