SNP passes Scottish budget – reactions
MSPs passed the Scottish budget after a heated debate which saw opposition parties push for a raise in income tax.
All opposition parties opposed Finance Secretary John Swinney’s budget, but it was carried by the SNP majority.
A protest by Labour councillors and trade unionists took place outside the Scottish Parliament, highlighting the cuts which are being passed on to local authorities. Council umbrella body COSLA has said the cut amounts to 3.5 per cent.
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Swinney used the debate to announce £80m more funding for a fund to tackle the education attainment gap. He also pledged to continue the council tax freeze and invest £200m over the next five years in six new NHS treatment centres.
Both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats called for the Scottish rate of income tax to be set one penny higher than the rate set elsewhere in the UK, but Swinney said the government would instead “look to the future” of new powers devolved in the Scotland bill.
“We have worked to protect our public services and pursue ambitious reform to help ensure that public services meet the needs of the people of Scotland,” he said.
Scottish Conservative Murdo Fraser said the SNP hand joined “hand in glove” with his party to oppose tax rises.
Left leaning think-tank IPPR Scotland warned non protected services faced a cut of up to 16 per cent.
Director Russell Gunson said: “The new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament over taxation, benefits and borrowing open up new opportunities, but devolution of powers can’t make the spending challenge go away by itself.”
The Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland (RCGP) said the budget was a “missed opportunity” to shift health spending into communities.
Chair Dr Miles Mack said: “We have now seen a full decade of loss to the percentage share general practice receives from NHS Scotland spending. In 2005/06 it was 9.8%.
“The share last year stood at 7.4% and this Budget confirms a further decline for 2016/17. Patients should ask questions of their representatives as to what the plan is for general practice in Scotland.”
The national union of students (NUS Scotland) also expressed disappointment at a lack of spending on student support.
President Vonnie Sandlan said: “We need to see a system where no student is left uncertain of whether they’ll have enough money to live on, or being forced to choose between unmanageable levels of debt and having enough money to get by, a choice which does nothing but add significant and additional pressures on them.”
WWF Scotland also warned it did nothing to tackle climate change. Head of Policy Sam Gardner said: “Just a couple of months ago in Paris, countries around the world agreed to step up climate action, yet this budget cuts back Scotland’s funding for tackling this most critical issue by almost 10 per cent.”