Scottish budget to ‘help put country on road to recovery’ passes

The £46.5bn Bill passed on Tuesday night at stage three by 70 votes to 53.

Scottish budget to ‘help put country on road to recovery’ passes PA Ready

The Scottish Government’s tax and spending plans have been backed by MSPs after deals were reached with the Greens and the Lib Dems.

The £46.5bn Bill passed on Tuesday night at stage three by 70 votes to 53.

In the past two days, finance secretary Kate Forbes has reached deals with the opposition parties, making this budget the fifth in a row to be supported by the Scottish Greens.

Before the deals were struck, the budget pledged to extend 100% rates relief, record funding of £16bn for the NHS and more than £145m to tackle drug and alcohol addiction.

In order to secure the Greens support for the fifth year in a row, the Scottish Government has pledged to extend the concessionary travel scheme – announced as part of last year’s budget deal and due to come into force this year – to anyone under 22-years-old.

Forbes has also agreed to pay rises for public sector workers, amounting to £800, or around 4%, for those earning under £25,000, 2% for those between £25,000 and £49,000 and 1% above that.

The Greens also secured Covid-19 relief payments of up to £130 for low-income families as well as two further instalments of £100 each in August and December for families with children eligible for free school meals.

All primary school pupils in Scotland will also 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.

The Lib Dems secured support for education in the form of a pupil equity funding (Pef) premium of £20m and £15m for retraining those who lost their jobs in oil and gas in the north east.

The Lib Dems also secured a number of concessions at stage one for mental health and education.

The finance secretary also announced in her speech she would advise NHS Lothian to undertake a review of its eye care services and how they are delivered, which could include a replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh, the recommendations of which she said she would adhere to.

Speaking during the debate on the Bill, Forbes said: “The ground I have covered today demonstrates how this budget provides stability and certainty for taxpayers and delivers for our economy.

“These are truly unprecedented times that require an unprecedented response.

“This budget delivers that and with cross-party support for it tonight, its passage will help put Scotland on the road to recovery.”

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser emphasised the deals struck provided no extra funding for local authorities, adding: “Once again, local councils are the whipping boy of an SNP budget.

“While the Scottish Government’s budget is increasing by an unprecedented amount, local councils are seeing their resources squeezed and local services will have to be cut as a result.

“The Scottish Conservatives want to see fair funding for councils and this budget does not deliver that.”

Labour’s Daniel Johnson said his party could not back the Scottish Government budget plans – highlighting the failure to give a greater pay rise to care workers as a key reason for this.

He said that the “critical vital work that they do, caring for the most vulnerable in society, has been undervalued and underpaid for far too long”, while his party pushed for an immediate pay rise to £12 per hour, before an eventual increase to £15.

Johnson said this would have cost £480m, as he insisted the Scottish Government has the “financial headroom” to deliver this, thanks to the additional funding it had received.

The Labour MSP said this would “transform such a critical service”, adding: “Bluntly social care workers deserve more than the 20p an hour this budget seems to imply they are worth.”

But Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the public expected political parties to work together in these “exceptional times”.

And he said the Lib Dems had “tried to make a difference” in the budget and were pleased with increases in mental health spending, among other areas.

Scottish Green Holyrood co-leader Patrick Harvie, whose party voted with the Scottish Government once again, said they had achieved a “significant package” in each of their priority areas, including ensuring a green recovering from the Covid-19 crisis.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code