AT the Scottish Tory conference in late April, both Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross made one claim on stage: Scotland is the highest taxed part of the UK.

I was never granted the opportunity to challenge Sunak on that claim, or indeed anything, amid a right stooshie involving his No 10 press team and just about every political journalist on site.

Six hand-picked papers were ultimately allowed to ask the Prime Minister one thing each, including hard-hitting questions such as “are the SNP fit to govern”.

By way of an apology, Ross later held a press huddle where he pledged to answer every one of the media’s questions.

At the close of that second press huddle, I pulled the Scottish Tory leader up on his claims about Scotland’s tax rates.

“The median wage in Scotland is £27,710,” I told him. “Can you tell me if someone on the median wage would pay more tax here or in England?”

Ross replied: “They would pay more tax here.”

Unfortunately for the Scottish Tory leader, that is not true.

According to the latest figures, the majority of people living north of the Border actually pay less tax here than they would in England.

READ MORE: Former Labour FM slams UK Government's 'assault on devolution'

Due to the quirks in the difference between the Scottish and English tax system, there is a “switch point”.

Anyone earning £27,850 or above does pay more tax here than they would south of the Border. They also get more back in government services (as BBC money expert Paul Lewis says: things are better in Scotland), but that’s not the central point here.

The point is that Ross (below) wasn’t on top of his brief, and seems to have spent the next few weeks ruminating on that.

On Sunday, his Scottish Tory press office sent out a release entitled: “Majority of Scots now pay higher taxes – debunking SNP claim”.

Given our exchange two weeks ago, this email caught my eye. It turns out that their calculations are based not on hard data, but on financial projections.

The National: Douglas Ross

An Office for Budget Responsibility report in March forecasted that the average salary (note, this average appears to be mean and not median and is UK-wide, not Scotland-specific) would rise by 5% in 2023.

The Scottish Tories (dubiously) calculated that this meant that the median salary would now be 5% higher than it was in 2022. A 5% rise on £27,710 gives you £29,095, above the switch-point threshold of £27,850.

Has the median wage risen by 5%? Will it in the next eight months? These are unknowns, something the Tories have relied on to try and make their political point.

When I raised concerns with the Scottish Tory press office about their calculations, a spokesperson said: “Wages would only have to increase by 0.05% to go through that [£27,850] threshold, and the projections we have highlighted show wages rising by ten times throughout the year.

“Given we are well into the year and indeed, the 2023/24 tax year, then it is safe to assume that people’s wages will have already outgrown those projections.”

Perhaps. But then in September it would have been “safe to assume” that Liz Truss would still be prime minister in November. We all saw where tangling with tax figures got her.

It also remains to be seen if Scottish tax bands will remain the same. Both First Minister Humza Yousaf and his deputy Shona Robison have suggested that changes are in the works in recent weeks

Separately, the politicians have had a bit of a shouting match about the whole thing.

Liz Smith, the Tory MSP who serves as her party’s finance spokesperson, said the “boast” about most Scots paying less tax here than they would in England was just “spin anyway”.

She said: “This boast was always based on careful, cynical spin anyway, because the ‘majority’ were paying a miniscule amount less tax than those south of the border, while the rest were paying substantially more.

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“It was a clever bit of smoke and mirrors designed to disguise the fact that Scotland is by far the highest taxed part of the UK.

“But, even on its own terms, the claim is simply untrue now – and ministers must admit as much.”

In response, the SNP said it “beggars belief to see the Tories complaining about wage growth”.

MSP Stuart McMillan went on: "The SNP Scottish Government is proud to have introduced the fairest income tax system in the UK that raises vital revenue to support Scotland’s public services, tackling poverty and supporting people through the cost of living crisis – this is in painfully stark contrast to over a decade of Westminster austerity and welfare cuts inflicted on people across Scotland by successive UK Governments they didn't vote for.

"Under the leadership of First Minister Humza Yousaf, the SNP will continue to pursue a progressive agenda that prioritises building a fairer, more prosperous society for everyone – but it's clear that independence is the only way for Scotland to escape the never-ending damage of Westminster control."

The National: The Green's finance spokesman MSP Ross Greer

The Greens also backed the progressive taxation policy that sees lower earners pay less while the wealthier pay more.

Ross Greer MSP (above) said: "The very richest people in society should pay a bit more in tax to fund essential public services, and that's exactly what the Scottish Greens have delivered.

“Back in 2018 we secured a small tax cut for those on lower incomes and a rise for those who earn the most. This year we went further, with a small additional rise for the very highest earners, as well as a rise in the tax paid on the purchase of second and holiday homes.

“That money is funding essential measures like the Scottish Child Payment and free bus travel for over sixties and under twenty-twos. As a party of and for the rich, it is no surprise that the Tories are so opposed to measures which make Scotland the most progressive part of the UK."