Following on from the passing of both the Orkney Islands Council Budget and the Scottish Government Budget here is a roundup of views across the political spectrum.
The OIC will spend £85.8million on running Council services in 2020 – 2021 with savings of £755,000 to be found. This is in addition to a number of savings already agreed by the Council for 2020 – 2021, amounting to £267,600 in total.
Council tax will rise by 4.84%.
The Scottish Budget was passed by Parliament on Thursday 5th of March: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill
The Scottish Greens who voted with the SNP to get the Budget passed in the Scottish Parliament described it as an ‘historic’ budget.
Mark Ruskell, MSP said:
“This is a historic budget, thanks to the Scottish Greens. Next year over 700,000 young people across Scotland and their families will benefit from free bus travel for under 19s.
“Greens have also provided extra funds for councils which has enabled councils to take proposed cuts off the table, increased the walking and cycling budget to £100m for the first time, won new funds for new rail projects to reach the next stage and a commitment to provide warm homes through energy efficiency measures.
“It seems incredible that other opposition parties could not back a bold transformational move such as this, especially Scottish Labour, who have put tribalism over principle once again.
“Labour once again sat on their hands rather than negotiate real change.
Kate Forbes, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Scottish Government introduced the final (stage 3) of the Budget to the Scottish Parliament describing it as delivering ‘stability and certainty’.
Kate Forbes said that the budget:
“delivers for our communities and businesses, despite the uncertainties about our block grant and the decade of Tory austerity that we are contending with.”
She continued that she would be holding the Tories to account on:
“their promise of ending austerity and their election promise of levelling up spending. We will hold them to that, because they have not just subjected the Scottish budget to unacceptable levels of uncertainty; they have subjected all our public services, taxpayers and businesses to that uncertainty.
“Despite that, we have provided certainty and ensured that this budget delivers for all Scotland.
“This budget ensures that we are tackling climate change and poverty.”
Labour described the Scottish Government’s budget as ‘back of a fag packet’ fiscal planning.
Local MSP Rhoda Grant who is also Labour’s Finance Spokesperson in Scotland, said:
“While the SNP boast of not increasing income tax, they heap inflation-busting rises on the regressive council tax, a tax that they promised to abolish over a decade ago.
“We ask that young people 25 and under travel free on buses. This policy would have helped young people become more independent while also making family travel more affordable.
“Instead the Greens settled for talks about introducing free bus travel for young people eighteen and under. This short-changes young people because on past performance it is unlikely to happen.
“We wanted fair funding for Local Government, but they are now facing a £205m real terms cut.
“This budget is damaging. It does not invest in the future of Scotland or its people. It does not deal with mismanagement. That is why Scottish Labour cannot support it.”
The Conservative viewpoint was that the amount Scotland was able to spend on its public services and investments was due to the Barnett formula and the ‘Union dividend’.
Murdo Fraser, MSP Shadow Cabinet Spokesperson for Finance said:
“Without that support, Scotland’s notional deficit stands at some £12 billion.”
And he continued:
“independence for Scotland would be catastrophic for the public finances of Scotland and for the public services that its people enjoy.”
Willie Rennie, Leader of the LibDems in Scotland, pointed out that the Scottish Government had not kept its promises on fully funding the internal ferry fleet in Orkney and Shetland.
Willie Rennie said:
“The Government has failed on the councils, the police and the ferries. It has also failed by keeping money back from public services.
“We all know that there will be no independence referendum this year, but the finance secretary has told me that she is keeping money back for that possibility.
“That is not something that we should be doing when our police are short of money, when councils are short of money and when ferries in the northern isles are short of money.
The vote in the Scottish Parliament was 63 For (SNP and Scottish Greens), 55 Against (Conservatives, Labour and LibDems) and with 0 Abstentions.
The UK Government will be announcing its Budget next week and all the financial arrangements so far laid down may have to be altered to deal with the fall out from that along with the continued uncertainty over Brexit, future trade arrangements and the effects of COVID-19 on the economy.
You can watch the whole debate in the Scottish Parliament here:
Reporter: Fiona Grahame