Budget focuses on people and climate amid cost crisis

The greenest Budget in Scottish Parliamentary history will tax the wealthiest in society to help those struggling most with the cost of living crisis, say the Scottish Greens. 

Increasing tax paid by the highest earners and on second homes is the fairest and fastest way to help pay for the likes of more free school meals, the scrapping of peak time rail fares and tackling fuel poverty, they said. 

Ross Greer MSP, the Scottish Greens finance spokesperson, said the Scottish Government could have done “so much more” to help people through the crisis if the UK Government hadn't effectively cut its budget by failing to compensate for the damage caused by rising inflation, itself partly a result of UK Tory policies.

Speaking ahead of today’s Budget debate, he said:

“Under this Tory Westminster Government, interest rates have soared to levels not seen since the financial crash of 2008. The consequences for household budgets and for the Scottish Government have been huge.

“Just two days ago, the IMF forecast that the UK will be the only G7 nation - the only one - that will see its economy shrink. That's under the stewardship of a Conservative Government pathetically limping from one failed Prime Minister and Chancellor to the next.

“As a consequence, many families are left with higher mortgage payments, people are being forced to choose between heating and eating, fuel poverty is at record levels and many of those in work are struggling to make ends meet. 

“Yesterday we saw the largest national strike for generations from an army of workers driven to the brink of despair. The Tories solution isn't to make their lives better, it's to ban their right to strike and then to raise the pension age.

He added:

“If the Scottish Government had received fair funding from Westminster, we could have done more. So much more. 

“But, with Scottish Greens in government, and with the limited budget available, we have focused our attention on people and the planet, and worked to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected.

“As a result 20,000 more children will be offered free school meals and £80 million will be invested in new and expanded kitchen facilities, allowing us to make free meals available to even more pupils in the near future. 

“By scrapping peak time rail fares from September we are making public transport cheaper and greener, so people can travel when it suits them and without fear of how much it will cost if they miss the cut off.

“All of this is being funded by what is now the most progressive tax system in the UK, one where the richest pay their fair share. Ultimately, what this budget does is illustrate how much more we could do with the full powers of a normal, independent country."