ONE of the country’s biggest unions has been accused of “stifling” public debate on the potential to leverage extra cash for the Scottish public sector using existing powers already devolved to Holyrood.

The SNP Trade Union Group (TUG) highlighted criticism from the GMB of its motion to the SNP conference for a levy on profitable whisky firms, which could raise as much as £1 billion for the public purse.

Louise Gilmour, the union’s Scottish secretary said the move would be a “job killer”, but the TUG described the criticism as “very puzzling”.

TUG vice-convener and author of the motion, Bill Ramsay, told The National: “The decision of the GMB to try and stifle an open debate on leveraging extra finances into the Scottish public purse is very puzzling.

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“The profit to international turnover ratio of home produced Scottish ‘Scotch’ is, in proportion, though not in scale, with the super multinationals like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“Less than 10% of Scotch is consumed domestically in the UK, that is the section subject to taxation in the UK.

“The rest, over 90% according to some Scotch analysts, worth close to £40bn in almost 200 markets worldwide, leaves Scotland.

“The hugely influential Scotch lobbying operation, run by the Scotch Whisky Association has heretofore ensured that a public discourse on the issue is closed down, though in an article in the Sunday Times they had no comment to make ... Given the, in my view, perfectly natural strategy of the GMB to maximise the income of its members, the decision to try and close down an open public discourse, itself well short of a concrete proposal, to enlarge the Scottish public purse seems a strange position to take.”

The TUG motion highlights past and current “financial ineptitude” by successive UK administrations, and asks conference to recognise that this, coupled to the economic promise of an independence Scottish state, “is one of the strongest arguments that can be deployed” as part of the case to vote Yes in another independence referendum.

It reads: “The latest iteration of UK Governmental financial ineptitude, the current Johnson administration, is one of the most egregious.

“Its impact on the lives of ordinary people is current and immediate in many areas, including the funding of public services at UK, devolved and local level.

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“In this context, it is widely accepted that the profitability of the whisky industry is among the highest of any industrial activity anywhere in the world. As the provenance of Scotch whisky as a brand and a product cannot be transferred outside Scotland, it has the potential, even in the current devolved context, to make a significant contribution to the public purse.”

The motion adds: “Conference therefore calls on the Scottish Government, in partnership with the Scottish trade union movement and civic Scotland, to look at the feasibility of raising additional revenue for Scottish public services from the significant profits of sections of the Scotch whisky industry.”