Scottish Budget 2024 to 2025: attitudes to tax - public engagement

This document summarises the Scottish Government's engagement on public attitudes to tax.

Focus Groups

In September 2023, the Scottish Government commissioned Insights work by way of focus groups from Jump Research to understand the public’s knowledge, understanding and attitude towards Scottish income tax. To better inform future engagement and communications on the issue.

A diverse sample of 43 respondents was gathered, representative of Scottish society, and asked for their views on:

  • Engagement with the tax system
  • Knowledge of the tax system and devolved Scottish taxes
  • Fairness of the tax system
  • Attitude to paying more or less tax
  • The Social Contract in Scotland

A summary of the findings is below:

Engagement with the tax system

  • Generally people’s engagement with the tax system was low and mostly through a personal lens
  • Respondents were not always clear of the benefit of having wider tax system knowledge and questioned their ability to influence the system
  • Respondents were interested in understanding how tax raised was spent by Government and the value it generated, both for them and their community

Knowledge of the tax system and devolved Scottish taxes

  • In general, respondent’s knowledge of the system was fairly low
  • It was not widely understood that Scotland had devolved tax powers and particularly different income tax bands to the rest of the UK

Fairness of the tax system

  • Whilst acknowledging a lack of knowledge made it difficult to judge, respondents were generally happy with the principle that the better off paid more tax
  • There was a general perception from respondents that they were getting less from the system despite paying more in
  • Respondents felt the tax and budget processes could be more transparent

Attitude to paying more or less tax to support public services

  • The principle of raising tax to improve society was broadly agreed by respondents, but came with some caveats
  • Respondents wanted to understand how Scotland’s tax divergence from the rest of the UK was benefiting the country
  • Some respondents felt they paid too much tax already and some noted raising tax further may drive higher earners out of Scotland
  • Respondents valued specific goals for tax and spending, particularly if they were of benefit to wider society and targeted those most in need

The Social Contract in Scotland

  • Prior to hearing about it at the focus groups, most respondents were unaware of the social contract
  • Once it was set out, many respondents responded positively to it
  • There were mixed views on the benefits of the social contract. Some highlighted positives like tuition fees, bus passes and free prescriptions
  • Others thought some areas of health, education and social care were not delivering for everyone

Next Steps

The Scottish Government will use the insights gathered to improve information and communications on tax in in the future. It will also support our commitment to wide and inclusive engagement with stakeholders and Scottish citizens.



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