THE SNP has announced its intention to freeze income tax rates and bands for the next five-year parliamentary term. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move would "provide stability to the economy and to household budgets during this period of recovery". 

It came as the SNP launched its manifesto ahead of the Holyrood election on May 6.

The party wants to hold a second independence referendum "within the first half of the five-year term" if the Covid crisis is over.

Ms Sturgeon said: "In the last Parliament - putting our progressive values into practice - the SNP introduced a fairer tax system.

"As a result, most people pay less income tax than in other parts of the UK. But those who can afford to pay slightly more.

"This has helped us boost investment and keep vital services free of charge - services like university education, prescriptions and personal care, and bus-travel for older people.

"If we are re-elected we will maintain that progressive tax system.

"And to provide stability to the economy and to household budgets during this period of recovery, I can confirm our intention is to freeze the rates of income tax throughout the next Parliament.

"These practical steps are designed to make a difference."

The SNP's manifesto states: "Scotland has the most progressive income tax system in the UK, with more than half paying less than they would if they lived in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

"By asking those who earn the most to pay a little bit more, we have also been able to invest more in public services and deliver a range of benefits, like free prescriptions, free university tuition and concessionary bus travel, that are not all available elsewhere in the UK.

"Having only introduced this new system in 2018, and with a need now to focus on recovery, we will aim for stability over the next Parliament.

"While it is important for any government to have flexibility to respond to a change in circumstances, our aim is to maintain current income tax rates for the duration of the parliament and increase thresholds by a maximum of inflation."