Greens and government reach deal to pass Scottish Budget

Concessionary travel scheme extended and pay rise for public sector workers.

Greens and government reach deal to pass Scottish Budget Getty ImagesGetty Images

The Scottish Greens will ensure the Scottish Budget is passed after reaching a deal with the Scottish Government.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes announced the deal while giving evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee on Monday.

Forbes has agreed to extend the forthcoming concessionary travel scheme to all young people under 22 years old, pay rises for public sector workers and pandemic relief payments of £130 to those on low incomes.

All primary school pupils in Scotland will be able to claim free school meals during term time, under the new plans, and £40m will be invested in active travel, energy efficiency and other environmental efforts.

Forbes said: “I’ll be able to say more at stage three but I wanted to take the opportunity to update the committee transparently on this recent development.”

Talks are also continuing with the Scottish Liberal Democrats ahead of the final vote on the Budget on Tuesday.

The draft budget for 2021-22 was unveiled in January and promised record funding of £16bn for the NHS in Scotland and money for local authorities to freeze council tax.

But with the Scottish Government not having a majority in Holyrood, SNP ministers need to win the support of at least one other party for the Budget to pass.

The new initiatives included in the Budget include:

  • 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
  • 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
  • £40m to support the green recovery, including a further £15m for active travel, £10m for energy efficiency, £10m for biodiversity and £5m for agri-environmental measures

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he was “delighted” the “constructive approach” of his party had yielded concessions from the Scottish Government.

He said: “This year’s budget cements the impact the Scottish Greens have had on Scotland’s priorities over the last five years.

“From fairer taxes to local services, we’ve shown every year that Green MSPs will get things done to build a fairer and greener Scotland.”

He added: “We’ve also been clear that school meals can be a vital tool in tackling child poverty. Marcus Rashford has brought the campaign for meals during the school holidays to the forefront, and I’m proud that Green MSPs have won that in Scotland, and universal free school meals for all primary kids by next summer.

“Concessionary bus travel for young people is a game changer, opening up opportunities for families and young people, and promoting public transport use for a whole generation.

“And after the insult of a public sector pay freeze from the UK Budget, I’m proud that the Greens have secured an uplift for the workers who have been and still are on the front line of our efforts to tackle this public health crisis. We will continue to back further progress, for example in the imminent NHS Scotland pay review.”

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