There is nothing inevitable about austerity and cuts to school budgets, Kezia Dugdale will say today.

In a major speech at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, organised by the David Hume Institute to kick off a series of speeches from party leaders ahead of the election, the Scottish Labour leader will say that the decision by the SNP Government to cut the budget for local councils – the main providers of our schools – was a conscious choice.

Ms Dugdale will say that the new powers heading to Scotland mean government ministers can choose a different path, and that the days of claiming they are powerless to act are over.

Kezia Dugdale is expected to say:

“The new powers coming to Scotland are beginning to change how the political debate operates. Scottish politics isn’t any longer just a case of managing money and making an election offer. Behind every party manifesto at this election will be a set of choices on taxation, just as there always is in UK elections.

Ahead of the election we will set out our tax plan. Our starting point is for progressive taxation so we can invest to grow our economy and ensure more Scots share in our national success. The hard truth of politics – that change doesn’t come for free – has arrived in Scotland. So who will pay?

We have already set out three different choices which we would make. Different from the Conservatives and different from the SNP. And we have been clear about why we are making those changes.

First, I’ve already set out the different choice on Air Passenger Duty in order to help support young people to buy their own home. Second, we have also set out how we would not follow George Osborne’s plans to raise the threshold for the upper rate of income tax, providing around half a billion pounds a year by the end of the Parliament to invest in the future. And third we have said we would bring back the 50p top rate of tax, paid by those earning over £150,000 a year, specifically to fund our plan to cut the gap between rich and poor children in our schools.

The impact of these changes is that we can guarantee that the tax plan we set out before the election will be significantly progressive, with those lucky enough to be doing very well being asked to pay more than the vast majority.

That is a challenge to all other parties. Political posturing is being replaced with the real policy choices of power. We can no longer pretend that the things that are happening in our country are simply inevitable or the fault of someone else.”