Scottish budget still needs 'significant amendments' to win Greens backing

Written by Tom Freeman on 31 January 2018 in News

Last minute talks between parties ongoing as Derek Mackay seeks majority support for his budget

Patrick Harvie - Scottish Parliament

MSPs are set to vote on Finance Secretary Derek Mackay's budget today amid negotiations to broker a deal which will get majority support.

The Scottish Greens, who backed last year's budget, have said "significant amendments" will still need to be made to win their support.

Talks between ministers and the Greens and Liberal Democrats are expected to continue today ahead of the Stage 1 vote later.

The two smaller parties represent Mackay's best hope for an agreement, with the Scottish Conservatives attacking plans to raise income tax for higher earners, while Labour has published alternative plans for tax bands and spending.

Two weeks ago in a Labour debate on the budget, SNPs backed a Green amendment, which suggested a deal was close, but this morning Scottish Green finance spokesperson Patrick Harvie said: "It’s deeply regrettable that other opposition parties have not got round the table to negotiate and make the budget better.

"Greens want to protect local services in every community in Scotland, ensure a fair increase in public sector pay, and bring forward low-carbon investment. We’re convinced that this can be done with reforms to income tax which protect low and middle earners, and we have given our detailed proposals to the Government.

"While the discussions have been constructive and professional, it’s clear that there must be significant amendments to the budget as it stands, and we urge the Finance Secretary to take our proposals forward. If he decides not to accept the changes we have proposed, it’s unclear where else he will be able to seek support for his budget."

Mackay argued the measures he has already proposed will "bring stability and stimulate growth".

But Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The Budget needs to do more to meet the long term needs of the economy.

"It should invest in people through education and mental health. We have a fully costed plan to make that happen.

"We have yet to hear how the SNP are going to change the Budget to make sure that the promised pay rises for public sector workers are fully funded. The current plan from the SNP will mean cutbacks in councils and health boards."

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