The investment we seek will deliver a fairer, greener Scotland, and ministers know these are the right choices to make.Patrick Harvie MSP
Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, today (21 Jan) outlined three key tests that the Green MSPs will apply before deciding whether to support or oppose a revised 2018-19 Budget from the minority SNP Government.
Last Wednesday (17 Jan), SNP MSPs supported a Green debate amendment at Holyrood, calling for changes to the draft budget to improve local council funding, public sector workers' pay and low-carbon infrastructure. The government is under pressure to present any revisions ahead of the Stage One vote on the Budget Bill at the end of this month.
The tests the Greens will apply are:
Local council funding - SPICe (Scottish Parliament Information Centre) analysis shows the draft budget proposes cuts to local councils' funding of £157million. Last year Greens reversed £160m of proposed cuts, resulting in a flat settlement and warned that a real-terms increase would be needed in future years. Like last year, Greens will not vote for a budget that cuts local government funding. Already councils are planning reductions in subjects offered at school and cuts to additional support for learning.
Public sector pay - The 1 per cent cap has been lifted, but the Scottish Government's new policy for its direct employees is for a 3 per cent rise only for those earning up to £30,000, with a real terms pay cut above this level. Local councils are not directly covered by this formula, but it will set understandable expectations that Council workers will finally see a fair pay settlement. Councils are currently budgeting for a lower increase so will need additional funding even to match the government's policy, let alone to provide an inflation-based offer for all staff. Across Scotland, almost a quarter of a million people work for our councils and have found themselves worse off after years of an unfair pay cap.
Low-carbon investment - the government’s pipeline of planned projects needs to do significantly more to reduce climate change with investment to fix leaky homes, improve buses, increase the fuel poverty budget and allow communities to open new rail stations with a dedicated fund.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
"The ball is in the Scottish Government's court. We have made very clear over recent months what our priorities are and where their draft budget is lacking, and SNP ministers and backbenchers were last week left with no option but to acknowledge this by supporting our position in Parliament.
"The investment we seek is to protect schools and other local services, help frontline staff doing vital jobs to catch up after years of erosion in their pay packets, and it's about building the new rail lines, better buses and affordable housing that Scotland desperately needs.
"We have given SNP ministers a range of proposals for raising additional revenue, most obviously by fixing the absurd anomaly in the proposed income tax system which cuts tax for people on high incomes, among a number of other changes. We remain open to discussions with the Scottish Government on the best way to fully fund local councils so they can protect vital services and improve workers' pay in consultation with the unions.
"If the government come back before 31 January with a revised budget that does not meet these three tests, we will be unable to give our support. The investment we seek will deliver a fairer, greener Scotland, and ministers know these are the right choices to make."