Major progress towards council funding reform

With Scottish Greens in government we are reforming local authority funding.

Today’s Scottish budget marks a big step forward in widening the powers of Scotland’s councils to more directly manage their own finances and fund essential local services.

Following an agreement reached between the Deputy First Minister and Scottish Greens last autumn, this afternoon Shona Robison confirmed further actions to progress reform of council finances. 

These include a commitment to introduce a new law for second and holiday homes to be charged more than double the regular rate of Council Tax and a process for significant reform of that tax ahead of the next Holyrood election. This process will include public engagement on key issues such as how homes are valued.

Significantly, the Deputy First Minister also confirmed that the Scottish Government has agreed to work with COSLA to explore the potential for a ‘power of general competence’ for local councils, a policy long advocated for by the Scottish Greens. Such a power could lead to councils being able to set their own local taxes and levies, living up to the ethos of ‘local by default, national by agreement’ contained in the Verity House Agreement signed by the Scottish Government and local government last year.

Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer said: “It is essential that local services like schools and social care get the funding they need. Unfortunately Westminster continues to force catastrophic cuts on Scotland’s budget, but we can get around some of this by empowering local councils to directly raise more of the funds they need.

“The Scottish Greens entered government on a commitment to reform council finances and today’s announcements demonstrate real progress on that commitment. More than doubling the rate of Council Tax on second and holiday homes will raise money for local services and free up homes for those who really need them.

“A ‘power of general competence’ might not sound like the most exciting news of the day, but it could be transformational for local councils, empowering them to act like a tier of legitimately elected government just like Holyrood or Westminster.

“Overall this budget reflects Scottish Green values. Despite the difficult position Westminster has put us in, we have prioritised people and planet with policies like cancelling school meal debt and investing in a renewable energy industry creating thousands of new jobs each year.

“Scotland has the most progressive income tax system in all of the UK, largely as a result of Scottish Greens tax policies. This means an additional £1.5 billion is available to spend on essential services each year, such as our NHS and the groundbreaking Scottish Child Payment that is lifting so many families out of poverty. 

“With free bus travel for everyone under 22, our special offer of removing peak rail fares until the end of June, expanding free school meals to 20,000 more children and a record £4.7billion for climate and nature, the impact of Scottish Greens in Government couldn’t be clearer.”