Scottish budget passes first stage vote with support from the Greens
The SNP government’s budget was passed after a deal on taxation with the Scottish Greens
Scottish Parliament chamber - Image credit: Anita Gould
The Scottish budget has passed the first stage vote in the Scottish Parliament with support from the Greens.
The Scottish Government needed one other party to either support the bill or abstain for it to pass.
A deal with the Greens to gain their support for the budget will see the threshold for the higher rate of tax frozen at £43,000 rather than rising to £43,430, as had been proposed in the draft budget.
This will see income tax in Scotland diverge from the rest of the UK in income tax rates for the first time using new powers gained under the Scotland Act, as the UK Government is to raise the threshold to £45,000 in the rest of the UK.
As part of the agreement with the Greens, £160m of additional funding is to go to local government in the unringfenced core grant.
There will also be £25m more for police reform and £35m for Scottish Enterprise.
Introducing the debate, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “I have been listening very carefully to the other parties in this Parliament across the political spectrum on both tax and spend and I have entered into negotiations in good faith in order to build the consensus that this country needs.
“I particularly welcome the constructive approach that has been taken by the Green Party. It has asked me to consider changes to our income tax proposals and to provide additional funding for local government.”
Patrick Harvie said: “In a period of minority government, it is the responsibility of all parties to exercise influence for the good and to make a meaningful difference. That is a healthy kind of parliament.
“I even think that it is good for ministers to know that the votes are not in the bag when they turn up to work. They need to work for those votes and convince people by compromising.
“Government needs to compromise, and today the Greens have achieved the biggest budget compromise in the history of devolution in Scotland.”
Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson Murdo Fraser referring to Patrick Harvie’s party as “lentil-munching, sandal-wearing watermelons”, said: “We know today that it is not the Greens who are the patsies in the chamber but the entire SNP front bench, for they have swallowed hook, line and sinker the Green Party’s hard-left, high-tax agenda.
“They have let Patrick Harvie pull all the strings, and it will be hard-working Scottish families that suffer as a consequence.”
However, Willie Rennie intervened to comment: May I put into context what Murdo Fraser is talking about?
“As a result of the decision today, a person who earns £100,000 will pay £86 more than they would have paid under the SNP manifesto, but they will pay £2,080 less than they would have paid under the Green manifesto.
“I do not think that the Government has given way a hell of a lot.”
Rennie said that the Lib Dems had put forward “a costed and reasonable compromise package”, but the Scottish Government had not accepted it.
Scottish Labour Kezia Dugdale took issue with the statement by the First Minister that her party had been playing playground politics with the budget, noting that she had had “cordial and constructive” conversations with Derek Mackay on the budget.
But Labour had been looking for more taxation to fund further public spending and Dugdale commented: “With the concession that he has given the Green Party to move away from his manifesto commitment on the top rate of income tax, the cabinet secretary has abandoned the principle of sticking to his manifesto, and it leaves him open to accusations about why he did not use the 50p top rate of tax.
“If he has moved away from his manifesto once, he can do it again in the name of protecting vital public services.”
A Labour amendment to the budget failed, while the budget motion itself was passed by 67 votes for to 57 against.
The budget will now be scrutinised by Scottish Parliament committees before the stage three vote in the chamber at the end of February.
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