Greens: SNP's ambition falls short

For immediate release 7 September 2011

Today's legislative programme announced by SNP Ministers contains some measures welcomed by the Green MSPs, but as a whole the party argues that the First Minister has not gone far enough to protect Scotland's most vulnerable from the austerity measures being imposed by the UK Government, nor to promote a low carbon economy.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"The First Minister is right to attack the savage cuts coming from the Tory/LibDem government, and the reckless way UK Ministers are imposing an austerity programme designed to serve only the wealthiest. And yet he is still arguing that we should be cutting Corporation Tax, which would be entirely counter-productive. The Scottish Parliament does need new tax powers, but those powers must be the foundation for a fairer, more equal society, not simply a tax giveaway to big business.

"Greens have been arguing that instead we need to see support for small enterprise and for young people to get their own business ideas started. Just before the May election the SNP backed our proposals for a new microfinance scheme to do just that. Ministers talk up their concern about youth unemployment, so why have they not found room for this idea in their programme?

"The new plans to bring in a charge on empty properties is very welcome, but Ministers should go further - why should empty business properties be exempt from business rates? Bringing them into the tax system would provide a substantial boost to public funds while also giving a real incentive to bring them back into economic use.

"The Land Registration Bill proposed today is very welcome, and could provide the essential groundwork for a future Land Value Tax, which Ministers have acknowledged could help pay for infrastructure like housing and public transport. The abolition of the Housing Support Grant, however, is a serious mistake. The SNP should think again, and this fund should instead be redirected into investment in our existing building stock.

"Greens will continue to oppose plans to scrap Scotland's locally accountable police forces in favour of a national force. Short term cuts are no rational basis for changing to a policing model which nobody would otherwise have chosen, especially since savings won't be seen for years, if at all.

"It's time for the SNP to put some detail on the independence issue, by opening up a participative, democratic process of debate inside Parliament and outside. Every detail of the independent Scotland being proposed, including the timing of the vote, should now be up for discussion."