Patrick Harvie calls for new Scottish budget to close inequality gap
THE SCOTTISH GREENS have said they will back budget proposals that take serious actions to close the gap between the rich and the poor.
Co-convener Patrick Harvie made the pledge at first minister’s questions today [Thursday 24 November] in the opening salvo of upcoming debates on the government’s draft budget.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped plans will go far enough to win support across the chamber, with the government now operating as a minority since May’s national election.
Commenting following the recent Tory Government Autumn Statement, which included tax cuts for the rich and continued cuts to public services, Harvie said: “The first minister stated again that she wouldn’t 'pass on' a tax cut to the richest people in society. That simply won’t be enough. Scotland must from now on set its own tax policy instead of debating whether or not to copy the UK Government.
“The real test is what her government does with income tax rates and thresholds. Scotland has an opportunity to take a different approach to Westminster and raise revenue from the wealthiest, including people on high incomes like ministers and MSPs, while making those on low incomes better off.”
The draft budget will be published on December 15th, which will then see scrutiny of the plans from parliament’s committees and opposition political parties.
Sturgeon, responding to Harvie’s focus on inequality, said the Scottish Government will prioritise investment and wage support.
“I hope everyone across the chamber – perhaps with the exception of the Tories – would welcome the fact that we have managed to confirm that our work programme will not have sanctions attached to it.” Nicola Sturgeon
“He will appreciate that I will not go into all of the detail today because the finance secretary will set out the budget in due course,” she said.
“But if you look for example at energy efficiency, this government has and will continue to invest heavily in energy efficiency.
“In terms of the minimum and living wage, we don’t have the power to set the minimum wage. We’ve made very clear that we want to see the extension of the real living wage, and I’ve already extended of course to 40,000 social care workers,” Sturgeon added.
“So these are the kind of actions we will continue to take to protect those most in need.”
Sturgeon also highlighted the announcement that new social security powers will operate without the Tory sanctions regime: “We will continue to do everything we can to mitigate the effect of welfare cuts, and I hope everyone across the chamber – perhaps with the exception of the Tories – would welcome the fact that we have managed to confirm that our work programme will not have sanctions attached to it, something that I think will be warmly welcomed.”
Harvie called for further action through Scotland’s new social security agency: “We can also make use of new powers to top up benefits, such as child benefit, lifting tens of thousands of children out of poverty. And we must see government support only available to businesses which pay the real living wage to all workers.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for a freeze on rail fares in 2017, as another proposal that would reduce financial pressures on those suffering from stagnating wages and high costs.
Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV
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