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.
Talks are continuing ahead of tomorrow’s Stage 3 debate with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, which 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, allocating money for a council tax freeze and providing £16bn 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.
- £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.
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.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens have been clear that the Scottish budget needed to do more to tackle rising poverty and ensure a green recovery from the pandemic.
“I’m delighted that once again our constructive approach has delivered real results for the people who need it most.
“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.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his MSPs will back the Scottish Government’s budget if it includes an increase in social care workers’ pay to £12 an hour, with a process to raise this to £15 in the next parliament.
“I am making a clear offer to the Scottish Government: deliver a fair pay rise for social care workers and we will vote for the budget – and then let’s spend the next parliament working on a recovery plan to rebuild Scotland,” he stated.
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