Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government, is urging all MSPs to get behind the Scottish Budget which reaches Stage 1 of its passage through the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 31st of January.
This comes after the Scottish Greens who have voted for previous Scottish Budgets state that they will not back this one if more money is not made available for local councils.
The Greens who have 6 MSPs (5 men and 1 woman) warned they would take the action over the ‘stubborness’ of the Scottish Government over local government financing.
Patrick Harvie MSP, co convener of the Greens said:
“The Government seem determined to force through a hugely damaging budget for 2019/20, decimating local services around the country. That’s not something we can support.
“ If the Government continues to refuse to accept our proposals or even come up with fair alternatives, we cannot vote for this budget when it comes to Parliament on Thursday.
“Given the huge uncertainty being caused by SNP Ministers’ stubbornness, I’ve no doubt council workers and service users will be astonished that we’re in this situation at such a late stage. It underlines the need to give real financial powers to the local level so our front line public services are not so reliant on the whims of central government. That long-term agenda of fairer funding is one that Scottish Greens will continue to pursue regardless of this year’s outcome.”
The draft Scottish Budget was laid before the Scottish Parliament on the 19th of December and since then various groups have been lobbying for changes to ensure extra funding to different areas. Orkney Islands Council is wanting more money for the islands ferries.
The EIS, the largest teaching union in Scotland has also been lobbying for higher wages for their members – an improved offer was rejected by their National Council. EIS members will now decide whether or not to reject the offer.
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister in the Scottish Government said:
“This offer would see teachers receive a minimum 9% increase between January 2018 and April 2019, with a further 3% rise in April 2020.
” The Scottish government will provide the funding for pay restructuring in addition to the local government settlement.”
More money will be made available to Scotland’s local authorities to pay for the enhanced offer should it be accepted.
The Liberal Democrats stated from the start that they would not involve themselves in any negotiations over the draft budget whilst the SNP continued to support a 2nd referendum on independence. The Liberal Democrats did not vote in favour of The 2018 Budget with the exception of the 2 MSPs representing the Northern Isles due to the ferry funding deal included then.
The Scottish Government is an SNP minority one and cannot pass any legislation without the support of at least one other party in the Scottish Parliament.
Derek Mackay has said that he is still open to changes being made to the draft budget which includes a lot of money which will go to local councils but which is ring fenced. This means it can only be used to deliver and support those policies stipulated. Many councils have expressed the wish to have more control over what they can spend money on.
Derek Mackay said:
“Our spending plans for 2019-20 provide a real terms funding increase for Scotland’s essential public services, including additional funding of almost £730 million for our health and care services and more than £180 million to raise attainment in our schools. The Budget also gives a vital boost to our economy through our £5 billion infrastructure investment programme.”
More information here: Budget (Scotland) (no.3) Bill
Reporter: Fiona Grahame