Agreement has been reached with the Scottish Green Party to ensure passage of the Scottish Government’s budget through parliament.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has struck a deal which guarantees the Budget Bill can clear its final stages. It will see the phased introduction of free school meals for all primary pupils, an enhanced public sector pay deal, new Pandemic Support Payments and additional funding to support environmental, active travel and energy efficiency initiatives.
Talks are continuing ahead of tomorrow’s Stage 3 debate with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who voted for the budget at Stage 1 in exchange for increased spending on mental health, business support and education recovery.
The new commitments build on the budget’s existing measures to address the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and lay the foundations for recovery. These include meeting the main ask of business by extending 100% rates relief for the retail, hospitality, leisure, aviation and newspaper sectors for a further 12 months – considerably exceeding the relief offered in England – supporting families by allocating money for a council tax freeze and providing record £16 billion to the NHS.
The new initiatives will be funded mainly from the unallocated balance of funding from last week’s UK budget.
- Pandemic Support Payments of £130 to households receiving Council Tax Reduction and two payments of £100 to families of children qualifying for free school meals
- the phased introduction of free school meals to all primary school children by August 2022
- an £800 pay rise for public sector workers earning up to £25,000, and a 2% increase for those earning over £25,000 up to £40,000.
- extending free bus travel to under 22s
- £40 million to support the green recovery, including a further £15 million for active travel, £10 million for energy efficiency, £10 million for biodiversity and £5 million for agri-environmental measures
Ms Forbes said:
We continue to face unprecedented challenges and I have sought to engage constructively to deliver a budget that meets the needs of the nation.
I would like to thank all parties for the positive way they have participated in this process. The budget addresses key issues raised by every party and I hope all MSPs feel able to support it. We have reached an agreement with the Scottish Greens and I am hopeful about the outcome of my continuing talks with the Liberal Democrats.
Today I can announce that we are able to go further in offering a fair and affordable pay settlement to the public sector workers to whom we owe so much through the pandemic, particularly the lowest paid.
The budget already contains measures to help struggling families, but in this deal we are also announcing details of a £100 million programme of one-off Pandemic Support Payments. And we commit to providing free school meals to every primary school pupil by August 2022, with expansion for P4s starting after this year’s summer holidays.
A green recovery lies at the heart of the Scottish Government’s policies and today we are delivering significant new investments in energy efficiency and active travel, while providing additional funding to support biodiversity and make our agriculture more environmentally-friendly.
And, as we rebuild from Covid, we will support our young people by extending our original commitment to concessionary travel for all under 19s to include everyone up to age 22, giving all 18-21 year olds free bus travel.
Every penny made available to us to tackle the pandemic has been allocated. These remain difficult times, but this budget puts us on the path to a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland.
Commenting, local MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, Gordon MacDonald said:
In the face of UK government cuts to Scotland’s capital grant, the Scottish Government has delivered certainty and stability for our economy with a budget that delivers for every single person who lives in Edinburgh.
This budget is being delivered in exceptional circumstances as we continue to battle a pandemic that has shaken our society and economy to the core, and as we face the harmful impacts of a hard Brexit.
By voting against these plans for stability and certainty for the economy in Edinburgh, Labour and the Tories have shown they aren’t remotely interested in doing what’s best for Scotland. They’re far more concerned with launching failing party-political attacks against the SNP.
In contrast, the Scottish Government is getting on with the job of delivering for Scotland – with a budget protecting public services in the face of Westminster austerity and cuts.
With an election just weeks away, this is a Budget the SNP can be proud to stand on. It’s a good deal for Edinburgh and a good deal for Scotland – and I’m delighted it has now received the support of the Scottish Parliament.