Harvie criticises SNP Ministers over Budget inaction on local tax reform

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP today (12 Dec) criticised SNP Ministers for failing to use the publication of the draft 2019-20 Scottish Budget to act on the need for local tax reform and the climate crisis.

The Greens have been making the case for meaningful progress on the local tax reform agenda, to enable councils to raise more funds in a fair way to protect local services. The party has set out specific proposals on Council Tax, non-domestic rates and new ideas to broaden the local tax base.

The government’s budget document says it agrees that the present system of Council Tax must end but offers no timescale for action. Under questioning from Patrick Harvie, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay would only say he is “open to dialogue”.

The Greens have also called for a Climate Emergency Bill to stimulate investment in clean energy, transport, heating and farming.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"It's astonishing that the Finance Secretary’s budget statement contained no word on reform of local tax and despite a passing reference in the budget document itself, there are no commitments to action at all. The SNP have wasted this key moment to address the fundamental problem facing public services such as schools and social care - over-reliance on annual allocations of funding from central government. It's simply abnormal for Scotland to be in this position as in other European countries city and regional authorities raise the bulk of what they spend.

"It’s reckless for this minority government to be in this position, so late in the day, where it is refusing reasonable offers to negotiate over its spending plans. It has known for months what the Greens’ precondition for talks is and we are almost out of time. If the Finance Secretary wants to bring some stability to these uncertain times, he's going a strange way about it."

On proposals contained within the budget, Mr Harvie said:

"While the huge economic threat of Tory Brexit hangs over everything, there are some positive signs in this budget, including confirmation that the SNP don't plan to copy the Tory income tax giveaway for the wealthy. But Scotland's fairer income tax system, brought about by Green pressure, could still go further in reducing inequality, for example by looking again at the top rate paid by the very richest.

"On education, the continued use of Pupil Equity Funding is papering over the cracks when we have lost thousands of teachers under the SNP, and as ministers have wasted time on unwanted governance reforms instead of reversing the budget cuts of previous years.

"It's also reckless for this budget to contain no measures to address the climate crisis. The science has changed and the situation has become more urgent but SNP Ministers' attitude has yet to catch up. It's why we need a Climate Emergency Bill and this budget should be driving the investment we need in cleaner transport, energy and food production but instead it appears to continue business as usual."