On 31st October 2017, Ben Macpherson MSP secured a Private members debate on the anomaly of Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service paying VAT,
That the Parliament understands that Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue continue to be the only territorial forces in the UK unable to reclaim VAT; believes that this costs £35 million annually, and has totalled £140 million since 2013; notes what it sees as the detrimental impact that paying this VAT has on frontline services in communities in Edinburgh Northern and Leith and across Scotland; acknowledges the view that the UK Government should change its rules to allow this VAT to be reclaimed, similar to the action that it took to enable Highways England and academy schools to reclaim VAT, and further notes the argument that the UK Government should fully reimburse the reported £140 million taken away from Scotland’s frontline emergency services since 2013.
The inability of Police Scotland to reclaim its VAT has been the subject of a long running campaign of the SPF and we have engaged with politicians from all parties to try and have VAT rules amended. The SPF warned that these rules, as they stood in 2013 ,prevented the recovery of the tax but noted that rules had previously been changed to accommodate the BBC and the creation of Academy Schools in England. We also acknowledged that the projected savings from the creation of a single force dwarfed the additional VAT costs. The rights or wrongs of the past are however a matter for the politicians. What is important for the future sustainability of policing is that the disparity that sees Police Scotland as the only territorial Police Force in the UK paying VAT ends.
We welcome the position of the SNP, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrats who, whilst having their differences on who was responsible, do at least agree that the VAT anomaly must now be rectified. It was disappointing that the Scottish Conservative MSPs in the debate were unwilling to support the motion but we hope that political pressure will encourage them to work behind the scenes to try and address this.
Our campaign continues.