Along with a number of Co-operative Party colleagues I have been trying to get the Scottish Government to take the tax behaviour of companies seriously in the procurement process. The standard response from the Scottish Government has usually been we would think about it if we had the powers. In the debate about the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Bill the answer as to whether the Scottish Government has the powers or not was finally given. They do have the powers – they chose to use them timidly.

As I have previously said I would be very happy to work with the Scottish Government to find a way to bring effective tax transparency into the public procurement system. No public funds should be paid to companies which are tax avoiders.

In the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis there will be economic problems; the Scottish Government and local government in Scotland should not be giving money to companies which are not paying their way.

Fair Tax Mark has released polling this week which shows that 80% of Scots – four out of five Scots – think that all businesses benefiting from a government bailout should have to agree conditions which prohibit tax avoidance.

The First Minister has said that she wants companies to ‘play fair in terms of paying taxes.’ This is an admirable wish, but the First Minister has the power to make this a reality if she wants to.

I know that Scottish Co-operative Party MSPs are willing to work with the First Minister to help deliver a public procurement regime which says no payouts to tax avoiders. We were disappointed that the SNP and the Tories joined together to prevent a further amendment which would have strengthened the policy by ensuring that companies could only get government funding if they reported on their tax affairs country by country to prevent the offshoring of profits.

As a Scottish Co-operative Party MSP I welcome the publication this week as part of the party’s Owning the Future campaign of A Plan for Fair Tax.  This document sets out a simple six point plan for Fair Tax companies should publish a fair tax policy.  They should report on taxes paid country-by-country this was rejected by Tory and SNP MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.  There should be transparency on the ownership and control of companies, anonymously owned companies are charter for money launderers and tax avoiders to do what they want. We should support our high streets, before Covid-19 our high streets were impacted by online competition and the costs of rent and rates – we need to look for ways to level the playing field to stop the decimation of our high streets and the impact that will have on our communities.  We need to incentivise economic growth in diverse sectors, not least by promoting co-operatives.

It is clear that many companies will be looking for support from public funds as we move past this pandemic towards economic recovery. The Scottish Government and local government in Scotland should only provide support to companies that pay the appropriate rate of tax in the appropriate jurisdiction at the appropriate time. Giving money to tax avoiders effectively robs our communities of the resources they will need to rebuild our economy after the coronavirus crisis.

There should be no bailouts for tax avoiders.