Programme for Government shows Green influence but ministers must go further to make Scotland fairer
Scottish Green MSPs said today's Programme for Government, outlined by the First Minister in Parliament, showed the benefit of Green influence but warned that ministers must be prepared to go further to make Scotland fairer.
Nicola Sturgeon announced that her government will support a raft of Green policies, including:
* funding local Citizens’ Income schemes, a longstanding Green economic policy which Green councillors have been pushing at local level;
* a new Climate Change Bill, which Greens will push further by proposing net-zero carbon emissions by 2040;
* lifting the public sector pay cap, for which the Greens first gave costed proposals during the 2011-16 parliamentary session;
* a free vote on the member's bill proposed by Green MSP John Finnie, which aims to give children equal protection by removing the defence of "justifiable assault" from Scots law;
* a "financial health check" for low income families and support for young carers, which Greens have proposed in the 2016 election and since;
* the phase out of petrol and diesel cars by 2032, low emissions zones in four cities, and a plastic bottles deposit return scheme.
The Greens criticised the SNP’s continued reluctance to take immediate steps on progressive taxation, and their continued support for regressive tax breaks to the polluting aviation industry.
Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:
"This programme clearly shows the value of Green influence in Parliament. The exploration of a Basic or Citizen's Income, a longstanding Green policy, is a positive step, and confirmation of support for John Finnie's child protection bill is very welcome. But on a host of issues, this is a government that remains overly cautious and it must be prepared to go further.
"On clean energy, we see a commitment to carbon capture, which remains a speculative technology and which won’t help us in the immediate years ahead, and we still don't have a ban on fracking. The deposit return scheme is welcome but could have been created using the Climate Change Act passed almost ten years ago.
"The phase out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 is a good aim but we need a clear commitment to end their use. Greens have long argued for action on air pollution, and the commitment to have low emissions zones in four cities by 2020 rather than the single zone the government originally proposed is modest progress.”
"On social equality, we see a government sticking to its unfair plans to cut aviation tax, putting money in the pockets of wealthy frequent fliers while spending on everyday transport such as buses, trains and bike lanes remains woeful. It's disappointing to see no plan to use top-up powers to boost Child Benefit the lift children out of poverty.
"On progressive rates of income tax, this is a debate Greens have been leading, and it's frustrating that only now the Scottish Government says it's open to discussion. Greens want to see people on low incomes given a tax cut, while those on high incomes should pay a fairer share for the public services we all benefit from."
John Finnie held a public consultation on his proposed member's bill earlier this year, with an overwhelming response in favour from individuals and organisations. Professional bodies, children's and health and social care organisations who have campaigned for this change in the law include Children 1st, NSPCC Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Royal College of Paediatricians and the Scottish Police Federation.
John Finnie MSP, Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:
“I welcome the support offered today by the Scottish Government for my equal protection proposal. It is simply unacceptable that we offer the most vulnerable in our society the least protection. The ‘justifiable assault’ defence is from a different age and it is vital that we move forward and afford our children the protection they deserve – the protection all adults enjoy - and send a message to the whole of society that we don’t tolerate violence in any setting.
“I have been studying the responses to my consultation, with the support of the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Government Bills Unit, over the past few weeks and expect to be in the position to outline my final proposal in the near future.”
Ross Greer MSP, Education spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:
“This SNP government remains unwilling to acknowledge the damage a decade of budget cuts has done to our schools. If ever there was a time to do it, it would have been in the First Minister’s statement but instead they have stuck to their habit of ignoring teachers, parents, pupils and education experts and continue with unwanted, unneeded and unhelpful education governance reforms.
“Nevertheless, we welcome the review of Initial Teacher Education, which was clearly needed, particularly to ensure that every new teacher knows how to support the one in four pupils with additional needs. With so many young people having such needs, improvement will mean reversing the cuts which have seen so many specialist staff lost as well as consistent training for all new teachers.
"What we will not countenance however, is the government using a review of teacher training to ram through Teach First in Scotland. This ‘fast-track’ scheme puts unqualified and underprepared individuals into classrooms and has a higher drop-out rate than traditional routes into teaching after just a few years."