Scotland politics

Scottish budget: SNP strikes deal with Greens

derek mackay
Image caption Finance Secretary Derek Mackay needed opposition backing to pass his budget plans

The Scottish government's budget has passed a key Holyrood vote after the SNP struck a deal with the Greens.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said he was "pleased to have reached an agreement" minutes before the Holyrood budget debate was due to begin.

The deal includes more core funding for councils and extra powers for them to levy local parking and tourist taxes.

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said the deal was the result of "constructive politics".

He said his party had worked for months to secure extra protection for local services and movement towards reform of local taxation.

The deal will see the Greens support the government throughout all three stages of the budget process.

The stage one vote passed by 67 votes to 58, with one MSP abstaining.

Mr Mackay unveiled his plans in December, with his budget including extra funding for education, the health service and infrastructure alongside a widening of the tax gap for higher earners north and south of the border.

The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats quickly ruled out backing the proposals, partly because the Scottish government has refused to rule out calling for another referendum on independence.

They have also highlighted what they say would be a £319m cut to council budgets - a figure the government contests.

Image caption The deal will see extra funding go towards local government spending

The deal struck with the Greens - the third in consecutive years - includes:

  • £90m for the core local government settlement
  • Cap on council tax rises increased to 4.79%
  • A move to three-year local authority budgets
  • Legislation to allow councils to set a local "tourism tax"
  • Power for councils to set a levy on workplace car parking spaces
  • Cross-party talks on replacing the council tax

Mr Mackay said the deal would "ensure our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement".

He said: "These additional measures will deliver the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution and provide additional funding to support local services.

"This enhanced package offers up to £187m of increased funding and flexibility to councils, on top of the £11.1bn local government settlement.

"In total overall spending power for local authorities next year will be £620m higher than it is currently."

Image caption Patrick Harvie said the Greens had been "firm but constructive"

Mr Harvie said the government had "seen sense" after "consistent Green pressure".

He said: "Scottish Greens will always be firm but constructive in these situations. Scrapping the Tories' council tax and giving councils more powers is a historic victory. All parties now have an opportunity to help bring about a fairer system of funding essential local services.

"On top of recent reforms to income tax, today's deal shows yet again Scottish Greens are leading the change, making Scotland the fairer country we know we can be."

Council umbrella body Cosla said they "welcome that local government's voice is being heard".

President Alison Evison said that "while challenges still remain", councils "are now in a better place then we were with the original budget proposal".

The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP had broken promises to voters not to bring in a tourist tax or raise council taxes by more than 3%.

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the deal was a "triple tax bombshell which will do nothing for the competitiveness of the Scottish economy".

Labour's James Kelly said his party "would never sign up to a budget that has cuts to local services in it", insisting that local authorities still faced a real-terms cut in core funding.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the Greens had been "bought cheaply", saying Mr Harvie had "settled for the vice-convenership of the car parking working group".