Warning to Scot Gov: Our test for entering budget talks has not yet been met

The Scottish Greens today (9 Dec) issued a warning to the Scottish Government that the party’s precondition for entering budget talks has not yet been met, with just days to go before the budget is published.

Patrick Harvie MSP has reminded the SNP’s Finance Secretary that the Greens are the only party ever to bring down a Scottish budget, having been unable to reach agreement after months of negotiation with Mr Mackay’s predecessor, John Swinney. 

Since the end of last year’s budget process, the Greens have been making the case for meaningful progress on the local tax reform agenda, to enable councils to raise more funds in a fair way to protect local services. Specific proposals have been set out on Council Tax, non-domestic rates and new ideas to broaden the local tax base.

While discussions have taken place, meaningful progress has not yet been made and the Green MSPs are as yet unable to enter formal talks with the minority SNP Government over its 2019-20 budget.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is due to publish his spending and income tax plans on Wednesday (12 Dec). 

Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:

“Scotland’s system of funding our vital local services is broken, and we urgently need the reforms which almost every party agreed to before the last election. Since then the Government has stalled, and this cannot be allowed to go on.

“Green influence has reversed cuts to local councils for the last two years, and we have delivered over £300 million extra for front line services such as schools and social care. But given the pressure from a decade-long squeeze on funds and growing demand for services, we need wider reform.

"As MSPs we have been given a clear instruction from our party members that we can only enter formal budget negotiations if there is meaningful progress on local tax reform to make a fairer system that protects services and cuts inequality. 

“Replacing Council Tax with a fairer alternative can’t happen overnight, but the work must begin now. Three years ago this week the SNP agreed with the Greens, Labour and the LibDems that 'The present system of Council Tax must end'. If they are unwilling to recommit to that policy and start working on making that pledge a reality, then they will be choosing to close off any chance of reaching a budget agreement with the Greens.

"If the Government is ready to change its position, we’ll still be ready to talk. But in the absence of that, budget negotiations would be a breach of trust with the democratic decision of our party, and therefore they cannot yet take place."

The SNP’s 2009/10 budget initially received support only from the Conservatives, who voted for every SNP budget during that parliamentary session. When it fell, precisely the same budget was reintroduced and passed with Labour and LibDem MSPs reversing their opposition

Commission on Local Tax Reform report, published 14 December 2015

Motion passed at Scottish Green party conference