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More NHS staff than bankers are top earners

A new study of Scotland's highest earners has revealed that there are more people working in the health service earning in excess of £150,000 than there are in the finance sector.

Research by the Scottish Parliament's Information Centre (SPICe), conducted ahead of the introduction of new tax-raising powers, represents the most comprehensive study to date of Scots paying the additional rate of income tax.

The study shows that, according to the latest available data from the Survey of Personal Incomes (2009-10), 13.4% of top earners worked in "human health and social work activities", against 11.5% in "financial and insurance activities".

The next two biggest sectors were construction (4.8%) and mining and quarrying, which includes oil and gas production (4.6%).

By contrast, in the UK as a whole, 22.4% of the highest taxpayers worked in finance, compared with 9.5% in health and social work.

The difference in the comparatively large number of wealthy health service managers and clinicians in Scotland is largely explained by the relative size of City of London-based financial industries compared even to Scotland's thriving 200,000 employee financial services sector.

Nevertheless, the amount of predominantly public-sector workers in the highest earning bracket is likely to feed into the wider debate about the structure of the Scottish economy.

Under the heading "estimating the response of additional rate taxpayers in Scotland", the section in the SPICe study seeks to inform estimates of "tax income elasticity" (the effect of different tax rates on taxpayer behaviour) for additional rate taxpayers in Scotland.

It found that in 2010-11 there were 11,000 additional rate taxpayers in Scotland, a figure predicted to rise by 1000 people each year from 2010-11 to 2013-14.

It also found that the overwhelming majority were men (85%) and that they "generally tend to be slightly older than those in the UK as a whole".

The average income of additional rate taxpayers is £270,000 in Scotland, much lower than the UK as a whole at £433,000.

More evidence of the public-sector weighting of high earners in Scotland is suggested by the statistic that a higher percentage of individuals in this class are full-time employed (76%) than in the UK (70%).

"The majority of additional rate taxpayers are managers and senior officials," the report says. "The proportion in Scotland (60.4%) being higher than the UK as a whole (52.8%)

Gavin Brown MSP, Conservative finance spokesman said: "This looks like a comprehensive study that will be important to analyse in detail as clearly it will have an impact on the amount of tax collected after 2016 when the powers are officially implemented.

"My initial observation from these figures is that we do seem to have a greater reliance on the public sector compared to the UK, which underlines the need in the medium term to try to adjust our economy to create more private-sector jobs so the economy is sustainable for the future."

Scottish Labour's finance spokesman Iain Gray said: "As Scotland's largest employer it's not a surprise that the NHS accounts for the biggest percentage of high earners. What is disturbing though is that last autumn the Health Secretary Alex Neil pledged to increase the wages of managers and executives at NHS boards by £5000-£10,000 while nurses were left to cope with a below-inflation pay rise.

"Scotland has a strong public sector and in order to attract high quality candidates it's obvious that wages have to be competitive, but that shouldn't be at the expense of frontline staff who are scraping by." The issue of increased taxes for high earners was debated at First Minister's Questions last week, after First Minister Alex Salmond told a London audience he would not commit to a post-Yes Scotland introducing a 50p rate of income tax, saying there was no plan for an independent Scotland to put itself "at a tax disadvantage with the rest of the UK".

Questioned by the Labour opposition on Thursday in Holyrood, Salmond declined to pledge to reintroduce the 50p tax rate after a Yes vote.

As well as devolving stamp duty land tax and landfill tax to the Scottish Parliament from April 2015, the Scotland Act (2016) also provides for the introduction of a Scottish rate of income tax which will apply to the non-savings, non-dividend income of Scottish taxpayers from April 1, 2016.

The UK Government will deduct 10p in the pound from the basic, higher and additional rates of income tax. The Scottish Parliament will then have the power to levy a Scottish rate that will apply equally across these three bands.

The SPICe briefing looked at income tax revenues in Scotland, the potential implications of introducing a tax border within the UK creating two different tax jurisdictions, and the potential responses of taxpayers to changes in a Scottish income tax. It specifically focuses on the potential reactions of additional rate taxpayers.

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Local government

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