MSPs pass the pre-referendum Budget Bill


MSPs passed Finance Secretary John Swinney's Budget Bill, as amended by Labour to allocate the total amount of funding needed to fully mitigate the so-called bedroom tax, on 5 February 2014.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party all backed the budget, which was passed with 108 votes to 15.

During the debate Finance Secretary John Swinney committed to fully mitigating the so-called bedroom tax.

Mr Swinney confirmed an additional £12m had been found to take the fund up to the £50 million needed to offset the so-called bedroom tax, after negotiations with Labour.

"I want to be clear to the chamber that none of the funding I have announced here is a solution to the bedroom tax.

"This is about mitigation - about picking up the pieces from Westminster's iniquitous policy.

"The only real solution is to scrap the bedroom tax altogether, and this government believes the only way to do that is for this Parliament to have the full powers over welfare in Scotland."

The SNP and Labour set aside wider political differences to find a solution to the problems of the housing benefit reform during negotiations on the Budget Bill.

Mr Swinney said UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rules meant the Scottish Government was constrained in what it can legally spend.

The DWP has set a cap at £22.85 million for Discretionary Housing Payments, which can be used to support tenants at risk of falling behind in rent and getting into debt.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to the DWP asking for the cap to be removed, Mr Swinney said.

He said: "I give Parliament the assurance today that if the DWP says no, the Scottish Government will put in place a scheme to make this additional £12 million available to social landlords so that we need not see any evictions in Scotland this year as a result solely of the bedroom tax."

Scottish Labour finance spokesman Iain Gray criticised aspects of the budget bill, but welcomed the full mitigation of the tax, which his amendment called for.

Mr Gray said: "When this budget was introduced I called it a 'don't rock the boat, do nothing, get through the referendum' budget.

"If we pass my amendment we will have turned it into a 'sink the bedroom tax boat to the bottom of the sea' budget."

Gavin Brown, finance spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said his party would not support the budget bill because it did not focus on the economy and instead was "trying to extract political mileage" from welfare reform.

This was a "good day for young children", according to the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, citing his party's agreement with the SNP on significant plans to extend childcare in Scotland.

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who had brought forward a bill aiming to fully mitigate the housing benefit reform, welcomed the "spectacular U-turn" by Mr Swinney.

MSPs praised petitioner and campaigner Alan Wyllie for his evidence given to Holyrood on behalf of the No2Bedroom Tax Campaign where he called on the Scottish government to fully mitigate the impact of the so-called bedroom tax.

The second part of the debate can be viewed below:

Budget Debate 2

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