FINANCE secretary Derek Mackay will have public support if he chooses to increase taxes for Scotland’s richest in next week’s budget, according to a new poll.

The research on behalf of campaign organisation 38 Degrees asked voters to look at three tax proposals outlined by the Scottish Government at the start of the November.

A discussion paper examined tax policy from the main political parties in Scotland and suggested compromises ranging from putting a penny on higher and additional rates, to introducing six new tax bands – double the number we have just now.

According to the Scottish Government analysis that last option would increase what the highest earners pay to the taxman, but cut down what’s required from those on the lowest incomes.

It would also raise somewhere between £150m and £220m.

According to the poll, 61 per cent of Scottish voters would support this option.

Moreover, 38 Degrees say their poll, carried out by Survation, also shows 60 per cent of Scots would be happy to personally pay more tax, as long as it was going to public services.

Apparently, only 15 per cent of taxpayers said they would not be willing to pay more tax to tackle inequality.

About 30,000 people have now a signed petition with the group saying the government should introduce a a tax system that raises at least £200 million.

Gordon Maloney, a campaigner with 38 Degrees in Scotland, said the government’s Budget on Thursday December 14 was an opportunity for “bold tax reform to help fund Scotland’s public services.”

He said: “With the vast majority backing tax rises for better treatment in our hospitals, education for our children and a more equal society – and almost two in three Scots willing to personally pay more – the government has a mandate to be bold.

“MSPs can either be ambitious on tax reform and receive the public’s backing – or they can kowtow to the interests of the very richest.”

Last month CBI Scotland argued that the “fragile” economy should convince the government not to hike income tax to a higher level than in the rest of the UK.

In a submission to the Scottish Government, business leaders at CBI Scotland stressed the need to “ensure parity of income tax and business rates regimes with the rest of the UK”, saying this would help support consumer spending and also help companies to attract and retain the best talent.

CBI Scotland director Hugh Aitken said: “With economic growth remaining fragile and uncertainty weighing on the outlook, Scotland desperately needs a Budget that will deliver for people and business – one that is committed to boosting productivity through strengthening skills, infrastructure and innovation.”

He argued: “Boosting Scotland’s productivity is the only sure-fire way to grow our economy, generate the revenues we need for quality, sustainable public services and raise living standards across the board.

“These are goals we all share, and business has a role in working with government to achieve them.

“On income tax and business rates, we simply can’t afford for a chasm to open up between Scotland and the rest of the UK if we want to remain competitive.

“Variance across the UK would make it more difficult for our businesses to attract and retain talent they need, and could make investors think twice about setting up shop here in Scotland. With inflation at a three-year high and outpacing wage growth, we should avoid putting extra pressures on household incomes.

“Make no mistake, this Budget comes at a critical juncture for the Scottish economy. Moves which would make Scotland less competitive or less attractive must be avoided at all costs.”

Over the weekend Mackay warned that Scotland was facing a difficult Budget, claiming a decade of cuts had left Scotland suffering.

Writing in the Sunday Herald, Mackay said: “When you take everything into account – the decade of Tory austerity, changing demographics, the impact of the pay cap, a worsening UK economy and an impending Brexit – it is no exaggeration to say that we are facing the most challenging budget in the history of the Scottish Parliament.”

“We will do our best, as a responsible government – but even using our tax powers, in a balanced way, cannot fix every problem the Tories’ austerity agenda .”

The UK Government insists Scotland has had “a £2 billion funding boost”.