Harvie challenges Sturgeon to commit to local tax reform

Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, today (1 Feb) used First Minister's Questions to challenge Nicola Sturgeon to commit to meaningful reforms to give local councils real powers to protect public services.

Following yesterday's budget deal, in which Green MSPs forced SNP Ministers to increase the local government settlement by £170m, more than reversing the proposed £157m cuts to councils, COSLA said it puts local government in an improved position and that credit is due to the Scottish Greens for listening to, and acting upon, the case put forward.

But COSLA has also warned that longer-term financial challenges remain, and during yesterday's budget debate, Patrick Harvie warned that Green MSPs will be unable to enter negotiations on next year’s budget unless meaningful progress is made on local tax reform.

Following today's exchanges at FMQs, Patrick said:

"Our councils face growing pressures, and we need to tackle their over-dependence on national government for grants. Council tax is outdated and unfair, and the restrictions government places on councils’ ability to raise revenue is doubly unfair. SNP Ministers have repeatedly stalled on reform of local powers over tax, which could help protect public services.

"Green MSPs are not willing to allow the national budget process to become an annual rearguard action against local funding cuts. Why is Holyrood with its mature range of powers still micro-managing local councils, effectively deciding what a bungalow in Beauly or a flat in Fort William pays in council tax? 

"The defensive response from the First Minister is a worry but in our view local tax reform can wait no longer.”