It’s not too late for ministers to move in the right direction for the sake of local services and to renew Scotland’s local democracy.Andy Wightman MSP
Scottish Greens meeting at their Autumn conference in Glasgow today (20 Oct) mandated their MSPs to put further pressure on the minority SNP Government to commit to action on local tax reform to protect local services such as schools and social care.
A motion approved by Green members describes the need for “meaningful progress” before MSPs enter into discussions over the 2019/20 budget, which is due to be published by SNP Ministers on 12 December.
Members agreed that progress would include giving local councils the power to choose whether to introduce a visitor levy, devolving control over non-domestic (business) rates, a timescale for scrapping Council Tax and increasing the proportion of council funds that come from local sources.
Scottish Greens local government spokesperson Andy Wightman MSP said:
“Everyone relies on local services, from schools and social care to leisure centres and libraries. These services employ 240,000 people but the staff and the public are suffering cuts and increased charges as SNP Ministers keep a stranglehold on funding.
“The way Scottish local government’s hands are tied by national government looks bizarre to our European neighbours, where it’s normal for cities and regions to raise the bulk of the funds they need locally, in a fair and accountable way.
“I’m pleased that party members have endorsed an agenda of fairness and democracy, and that is exactly what the Green MSPs will continue to pursue in the run-up to budget day. It’s not too late for ministers to move in the right direction for the sake of local services and to renew Scotland’s local democracy.”
Full text of motion approved by the Scottish Greens conference:
Conference notes the decisions taken by SGP Council during 2018, following proposals by the parliamentary group, that “meaningful progress” on local tax reform must take place to allow the Green MSPs to enter negotiations on the Scottish Budget for 2019/20. Conference endorses the decision to define “meaningful progress” as including elements such as: 1. Broadening the local tax base – e.g. visitor levy, environmental taxes, vacant land 2. Committing to a timescale for abolition of the Council Tax 3. Increasing the percentage of local authority expenditure raised locally 4. Introducing a fiscal framework for local government 5. Devolving non-domestic rate setting in part or whole to local authorities Conference recognises that some of the above are long term goals but is clear that the process must begin if we are to protect local democracy, autonomy and public services. The Green Parliamentary group is therefore mandated to set out these priorities to the Government and to secure progress before entering into budget discussions.