Programme for Government is a missed opportunity

The Scottish Greens today (4 Sep) branded the SNP’s Programme for Government as a missed opportunity.

Co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP had urged the First Minister to set out a bolder set of priorities such as investing in new teachers, reforming local taxation and improving public transport.

In the Programme for Government for 2018-19 outlined today, the First Minister highlighted the new progressive system of income tax, the creation of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, and a Young Carer’s Grant - all of which were Scottish Green manifesto commitments in 2016.

The FM also pledged to work with local councils and communities to tackle short-term lets, an issue Green MSP Andy Wightman has consistently campaigned on.

But the programme does not fast-track the public sector bid for ScotRail as Greens have argued for, does not commit to invest in additional teaching staff, and it says nothing about reform of local government finance - an issue Greens have warned could prevent discussions about the next budget.

The programme also does not commit to increase the proportion of capital investment in low-carbon infrastructure in line with the 2018-19 Green budget deal, and there is no commitment to properly ban fox hunting.

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“It’s welcome to see action such as the Young Carer’s Grant, and electoral reform, and we’ll seek a continued commitment that the principle will be residence, and non-EU citizens and asylum seekers will also be able to vote. On a new public rail operator we need a stronger commitment on timing, and there’s still no acknowledgement from Government that in our education system it is resources, not structural reforms, that should be the priority.

“The First Minister’s commitment to a strong partnership between central and local government is meaningless if she continues to refuse Cosla’s call for power to decide for themselves on issues such as a transient visitor levy.

“Meanwhile, the latest Household Survey shows more Scots than ever think climate change is an immediate and urgent problem, so the government needs to be much bolder in its actions. Its climate change bill is a missed opportunity, and represents a slowdown in the rate of action to reduce emissions.

“On support for the economy, we must see a rebalancing of spend away from polluting industries and toward clean infrastructure such as a warm homes and efficient buses and trains.

“Action on public transport is especially needed as the latest transport statistics show an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads while bus use continues to decline.

“Over recent years, the Greens have worked hard to do just what we said we would in the last election – pushing the government beyond its comfort zone, leading the change that Scotland needs. It’s clear that there remain many parts of the Programme for Government where we’ll need to step up that pressure for change.”