Local fiscal freedoms are urgently needed, Harvie tells #sgpconf
The case for reform of local taxation is urgent, Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP today (17 Mar) told delegates at their Spring conference in Greenock.
Mr Harvie also hit out at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for blaming foreign workers for low wages, and warned of the threat to social, environmental and workplace standards from Tory Brexiteers.
The Scottish Greens’ gathering comes as its MSPs help shape the emergency EU Continuity Bill at Holyrood, and just weeks after negotiating major concessions from the minority SNP Government during the Scottish budget process - securing an extra £170million for local councils, boosting public sector pay and forcing greater investment in warm homes and public transport.
In his speech, Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“These are extraordinary times, with an emergency Continuity Bill, squabbles between governments, and a fundamental assault on devolution. The reasons to oppose Brexit are stronger now than in 2016, not least the consequences for our friends and colleagues on the island of Ireland, the evidence of the economic harm that will be caused, and the threat to our social, environmental and workplace standards from the Brexit Ultras who have campaigned for years for a bonfire of the regulations.
“The Brexit crisis is made worse by a main opposition party at UK level seemingly incapable of offering a real alternative to this path to destruction. Labour supporters who felt excitement with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn will have been dismayed to hear him in Dundee, defying the facts, blaming foreign workers for low wages. Greens know that the exploitation of people’s labour is rife in today’s economy, and getting worse. But we know also that we have a responsibility not to pit one group of exploited workers against another, but to take that fight to the employers who’re taking advantage of them all.
On the Scottish budget and local government funding, Patrick said:
“We are leading the change in Scottish politics with our achievement of major concessions in the Scottish budget. In the Holyrood election we were the only party to propose real reform of income tax, with more rates and bands to increase revenue while protecting people on low incomes, and at the end of this month, that’s exactly what comes into force. The Green budget deal also means more low carbon investment, a community rail fund, no aviation tax cuts, funding for Orkney & Shetland ferries, a fairer pay rise for public sector staff and new marine protected areas.
“But we’ve already warned that the case for reform of local council funding is a deal-breaker ahead of next year’s budget. The outdated and unfair Council Tax must go, and we need to see genuine decentralisation within Scotland.”
And on other parliamentary priorities, Patrick said:
“Green MSPs want to see the forthcoming Climate Change Bill embed a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040; anything less represents a slowing down and we will not allow a weakening of Scotland’s response to the climate crisis.
“Our MSPs will continue to push new laws to give children equal protection from assault, create safer streets with lower speed limits and properly ban fox hunting as the SNP dither over fundamental animal welfare issues. And we will continue to lead the opposition to the SNP’s unwanted and unnecessary education governance reforms, instead pushing for investment in the staffing and resources our schools need.
“With further attacks on Scotland’s budget expected to come from the UK Government in the years to come, we cannot simply keep pushing the pressure down the chain to our councils and our local communities. New, local fiscal freedoms are urgently needed and would stand us in better stead to face the future.”