"Green MSPs have achieved more in a single budget than the Labour Party has in a decade of opposition," according to Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, who this afternoon welcomed details of the Scottish Government's offer to increase funding to local councils by £160million.
In an exchange of letters to coincide with this afternoon's Stage One debate and vote on the draft Scottish budget, Mr Harvie confirmed that Green MSPs will support the budget this afternoon, and expect to see amendments over the coming weeks. It follows discussions with ministers, in which Green MSPs proposed a range of ways to prevent cuts to council services such as education and social work.
Scottish Ministers have agreed to only one concession on income tax, abandoning their proposed tax giveaway for higher earners and instead keeping the 40 per cent income tax threshold at £43,000 rather than raising it to £43,430. An additional £160million will be allocated directly to local councils for them to spend on local priorities.
Patrick Harvie MSP, Finance spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:
"This is the biggest budget concession in Holyrood's history and shows it's possible for parties to stay true to their aims while finding common ground in the interests of the public. By contrast, other parties have effectively ruled themselves out of constructive dialogue, leaving it to the Greens to push Ministers beyond their comfort zone.
"The result is that Green MSPs have achieved more in a single budget than the Labour Party has in a decade of opposition.
"We remain critical of many elements of this budget, and in particular it is clear that the SNP’s timid position on tax policy cannot last. But the substantial shift from Scottish Ministers on local council funding must be welcomed, and merits our support.
"Greens stand firmly with local communities and public sector workers affected by cuts and closures, and today's agreement means we can start to repair the damage done by years of underfunding and lack of local flexibility. This is, however, only the start of a journey on restoring financial powers at local level.
"As for the other parties, they either disengaged from the budget process early on, or failed to explain why their proposals should be based on hiking the tax of people on low and average incomes. Green MSPs were elected to make Holyrood bolder and Scotland fairer, and that's exactly what we're doing."