Scottish Government strikes last-minute deal with Greens to get budget passed
The Scottish Government will be able to get its budget passed, after it came to a last-minute deal with the Scottish Greens shortly before finance secretary Derek Mackay presented the first stage of the budget bill to MSPs.
In return for concessions on council funding and environmental measures the Greens have agreed to back the SNP budget through all three stages.
Among the changes Mackay announced an extra £90m funding for councils this year and a consultation with a view to giving councils the power to introduce a tourist tax.
An amendment will be made to the Transport Bill currently going through parliament to allow councils to bring in a workplace parking levy, with the exception of hospitals and other NHS buildings.
Mackay also announced that councils will be able to raise council tax by 4.79 per cent rather than the current three per cent.
He also committed to cross-party talks with a view to developing a replacement for council tax, although any change agreed on would not be brought in until after the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
Other commitments in the revised budget include increasing the plastic bag charge from 5p to 10p, measures to reduce use of disposable cups and that the proposed teachers’ pay deal will be fully funded by the Scottish Government.
Mackay said: “The Scottish Budget proposes an additional £2 billion of investment.
“It provides an increase of almost £730 million for health and care services, more than £180 million to raise attainment in our schools and gives a vital boost to our economy through a £5 billion infrastructure programme.
“As a result of these decisions, we have been able to invest in essential public services, particularly the NHS, while ensuring 55 per cent of income taxpayers in Scotland pay less tax than those earning the same income in the rest of the UK.
“The Scottish Government has continued to ensure our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.
“These additional measures will deliver the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution and provide additional funding to support local services.
“This enhanced package offers up to £187 million of increased funding and flexibility to councils, on top of the £11.1 billion local government settlement.
“In total overall spending power for local authorities next year will be £620 million higher than it is currently.”
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "The public rely on local services such as schools and social care, and local facilities such as sports centres and libraries.
“Today's Green budget deal means councils can protect these services and the jobs of frontline workers.
"It's welcome that after consistent Green pressure the SNP government have seen sense and committed to immediate action and longer-term reform.
"Scottish Greens will always be firm but constructive in these situations. Scrapping the Tories' council tax and giving councils more powers is a historic victory.
“All parties now have an opportunity to help bring about a fairer system of funding essential local services.
"On top of recent reforms to income cax, today's deal shows yet again Scottish Greens are leading the change, making Scotland the fairer country we know we can be."
However Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson Murdo Fraser called the budget a “triple-tax bombshell”.
He told MSPs: “It was bad enough that the budget published last month widened the income tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but today we have even more taxes to come, thanks to the deal that Mr Mackay has done with the Greens.
“This was an SNP government elected on a commitment not to raise the rate of income tax for basic rate payers, a promise that they have broken.
“An SNP government elected on a promise to cap council tax increases at three per cent, another promise they have broken.
“An SNP government elected on a promise not to introduce a tourism tax, another promise they have broken.
“And on top of that today, we have the introduction of a new workplace levy.
“This is a triple tax bombshell from this SNP government and it will do nothing for the competitiveness of the Scottish economy.”