Anas Sarwar has signalled he would cut income tax for middle earners if Scottish Labour returns to power at Holyrood, saying the current position is “ludicrous”.

He accused the SNP-Green Government of resorting to tax hikes to find money “as a substitute for economic growth”, saying he would spur growth by working with business

“We are an unashamedly pro-growth, pro-business, pro-worker party,” he told his party’s annual conference in Glasgow.

“Spurred on by the anti-growth Greens, the SNP has become an anti-business, anti-aspiration party.”

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Mr Sarwar’s MSPs will now oppose the creation of an “advanced” income tax band for those earning over £75,000 when the Scottish budget comes to a Holyrood vote later this month.

His spokesman later said the party’s instinct would be to simplify the Scottish income tax system, which currently has five bands to England’s three, and is set to rise to six from April.

The spokesman also said Scottish Labour’s “intention is to lower the tax burden on working people” if it wins power at the 2026 Scottish election after 19 years of the SNP.

The new line of attack against the SNP emerged as Mr Sarwar gave a confident, hour-long speech on the opening day of his party’s weekend conference in his home city.

Mr Sarwar made a series of pitches to the business community in an address to a packed auditorium in the SEC, but also risked angering North Sea industries by doubling down on Labour’s controversial plan for a 78% windfall tax on energy company profits.

More than a thousand companies and individuals have signed a letter warning that raising the levy from 75% until 2029 could cost up to 100,000 in a “cliff edge” for the sector.

Mr Sarwar also demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, condemned the Tories as corrupt and mocked the SNP for being confused about their own independence policy.

“The Tories are mired in scandal and division and chaos,” he said, saying another five years of the “far-right crank fest” would be an “unbearable nightmare”.

He urged people to vote Labour at the coming general election to put Scotland “at the heart” of a Starmer government.

Under the draft budget published by finance secretary Shona Robison in December, all Scots earning more than £28,500 will pay more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, rising to £1500 more for those earning £50,000 and £3,350 for those on £100,000.

Mr Sarwar said: “We have the ludicrous situation where we have a government that believes if you earn £28,500 in this country, you somehow have the broadest shoulders and you should be expected to pay more and get less in return.

“The SNP is being reckless with your money, and Scots shouldn’t be forced to pay the price for their incompetence. Because people work hard, pay their taxes, and expect government to be responsible with their money. It’s not too much to ask.”

Although much of the speech dealt with the general election offering a change from the “rotten Tories”, Mr Sarwar also had his eye firmly on the poll for Holyrood in two years’ time.

Stressing his credentials with business, he said Labour would “fast-track” the planning system for projects driving economic growth by helping councils decide cases quicker.

He said: “Scotland’s potential in the clean energy of the future is being held back by how long it takes to get a project off the ground. Scotland’s planning system is too slow, under-resourced, and is preventing development in our cities and rural areas.

“That means investment and opportunities are going elsewhere. When you can get an answer to a planning application in 13 weeks in Manchester, why wait 75 weeks in Glasgow?

“So Scottish Labour will speed up our planning system. We will build a central team to help fast-track projects across the country which are identified as drivers of economic growth. 

“Decision-making will always – always – stay local, but councils will be able to draw on this new national resource that offers the expertise, skills and the support needed to get their economies motoring.

“It will end the long waits and clear the backlogs so that our towns and cities can become the hubs of development and industry.

“It will allow the building of local energy projects and the grid development we need to deliver cheaper clean energy to families across the country.” 

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Likely to be less popular with business was his commitment to a longer, higher windfall tax.

The Glasgow MSP said: “Labour will deliver cheaper, clean energy and improve the efficiency of our homes, saving households hundreds of pounds off their annual fuel bills.

“The energy giants recorded profits of £33 billion last year. That’s why Labour will introduce a windfall tax to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

“The SNP now oppose Labour’s plans for a windfall tax.

“The SNP now believe if you earn £28,500 you should pay more tax.

“But if you’re an energy giant earning billions in profit, you should pay less tax.

“They can no longer pretend they’re on the side of working people in Scotland

“Let me be clear, oil and gas will play a role in the energy mix for decades to come – we will not turn off the taps – but we will also accelerate the transition to net zero.”

Mr Sarwar ended by leaving his lectern and giving his cheering a list of reasons to vote Scottish Labour in the election and put Sir Keir Starmer into Downing Street. 

“That’s what change means, and that’s why change matters,” he said.

SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: "Yet again Anas Sarwar has stood up and delivered no vision, no plan and no policies to the people of Scotland.  

"Instead we were treated to more slogans, more catchphrases and nothing of substance.

"The only thing for certain was that Anas Sarwar doubled down on the fact that his party will decimate our energy industry and leave thousands of workers behind." 

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “It speaks volumes that in the course of a 7,000-word speech, Anas Sarwar made one passing reference to Scotland’s oil and gas sector. 

“His boasts about growing the Scottish economy and reducing energy bills are fatally undermined by Labour’s desire to shut down this crucial industry and the 100,000 jobs it supports. 

“Keir Starmer’s economically illiterate policy – the same as the SNP’s – has prompted a huge and justified backlash from business groups.”