#ScottishBudget Reaction: Patrick Harvie, Poverty Alliance, IPPR Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group, PCS + more

Ben Wray

Reaction to the Budget from across Scottish politics and civil society

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT Finance Minister Derek Mackay has delivered his draft Budget to the Scottish Parliament. 

Mackay has proposed to maintain income tax rates as they were, increase public sector pay by 3 per cent for those earning under 36.5k per year, and have real terms funding increases for Healthcare and Early Years & Childcare. 

CommonSpace has rounded up reaction to the budget from politicians, think tanks, trade unions and others. 

Derek Mackay, Finance Minister; ‘We’ve created a fairer and more progressive tax system’

“Our decisions on taxation have resulted in a more progressive tax system, protecting those lower and middle income taxpayers, while raising additional revenue to invest in our public services and the Scottish economy. Those priorities will continue to be front and centre of our tax policy in the year ahead.

“Freezing the higher rate tax threshold will ensure Scotland’s health and care services gets the full budget increase they deserve, despite a £55 million shortfall from the UK Government’s autumn budget.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens: ‘Lack of action on local tax astonishing’

“It’s astonishing that the Finance Secretary’s budget statement contained no word on reform of local tax and despite a passing reference in the budget document itself, there are no commitments to action at all. The SNP have wasted this key moment to address the fundamental problem facing public services such as schools and social care – over-reliance on annual allocations of funding from central government. It’s simply abnormal for Scotland to be in this position as in other European countries city and regional authorities raise the bulk of what they spend.

“It’s reckless for this minority government to be in this position, so late in the day, where it is refusing reasonable offers to negotiate over its spending plans. It has known for months what the Greens’ precondition for talks is and we are almost out of time. If the Finance Secretary wants to bring some stability to these uncertain times, he’s going a strange way about it.”

John Dickie, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland: ‘Missed opportunity to tackle child poverty’

“Whilst existing anti-poverty spending commitments including on Best Start Grants are welcome, this budget so far represents a missed opportunity to go further and, at the very least, allocate the resources raised by freezing the higher rate tax threshold to lift thousands of children in Scotland out of poverty. With UK government benefit cuts driving more and more families into hardship the Scottish Parliament must use every tool in its toolbox to protect Scotland’s children and meets its own statutory child poverty targets.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to a new Income Supplement by 2022 is very welcome, but hard up families really can’t wait that long. MSPs must now work together to ensure that final budget plans include new financial support to boost family incomes and lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.”

Neil Cowan, Poverty Alliance: ‘No child benefit top up disappointing’

“One million people in Scotland – including 230,000 children – are currently living in the grip of poverty, and this budget offered the opportunity to take the urgent action needed to loosen this grip. We – along with other anti-poverty groups, children’s charities, trade unions and faith leaders – have been calling on the Scottish Government to bring forward the delivery of the new income supplement, which is due to be introduced by 2022, and to deliver the supplement by topping up child benefit. We called for this because it would unlock tens of thousands of children from poverty, and because families living in poverty now cannot wait until 2022.

“That this has not been included in the draft budget is disappointing and represents a missed opportunity. However, given the cross-party commitment to solving poverty in Scotland we trust that it will be a focus of budget debates and negotiations.”

Liam McCabe, NUS Scotland: ‘No clear path on student support’

“Today’s budget failed to state how the Government intends to invest in and deliver a student support system based on fairness, parity and clarity, as set out in the independent review of student support. In the months ahead, the Government must set out a clear path detailing how it will move toward a system where every student receives vital financial support at a level that is tied to the real living wage as it rises. While the Government’s continued commitment to free tuition for most levels of study is welcome, NUS Scotland has long outlined that this alone is not enough – and that levels of student debt in Scotland are rising to record levels. We will work to ensure that increased investment in student support is focused on non-repayable bursary.

“Improving mental health services for students has long been a campaigning priority for NUS Scotland, and the Government’s recognition of the need to tackle the mental health crisis unfolding on Scotland’s campuses is welcome. NUS Scotland figures released earlier this year showed a 76 per cent rise in students trying to access counselling services, so the commitment to provide more counsellors in colleges and universities is much needed. We look forward to seeing more detail on these plans.”

James Kelly MSP, Scottish Labour: ‘SNP failing people of Scotland’

“If you want to see just how badly the SNP is failing the people of Scotland, you just have to look at how local councils are struggling. There are now 3,000 fewer teachers in our schools, and nearly a third of children fail to reach the required level of literacy by the end of primary school.

“Few things better sum up the cruelty of the Tory government than the two-child cap on tax credits and Universal Credit, which punishes people for raising a family. The SNP has refused to use its powers to put an end to this vile policy and rejected calls from across civic Scotland to increase Child Benefit.

“Instead, Derek Mackay has kept a slush fund of over £300million in reserves while children are going hungry and services face cuts.”

Russell Gunson, IPPR Scotland: ‘Higher rate incomet ax freeze progressive move’

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to freeze the higher rate income tax threshold in Scotland. This is a progressive move and something IPPR Scotland called for in advance of the budget. The tax freeze will ensure that higher earners do not see larger tax cuts than those earning less, while also raising much needed tax revenue to help reduce the impact of budget cuts in Scotland.

“However, this much needed revenue has not been enough to end spending cuts in Scotland never mind deliver faster progress against the ambitious priorities we’ve set ourselves here in Scotland. Between now and the final budget vote in February, we need to see what more can be done to deliver the additional funding needed on key priorities in Scotland like eradicating child poverty, narrowing the attainment gap and delivering inclusive growth.”

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland: ‘Deeply disappointing on Higher Education funding’

“This is a deeply disappointing budget for Scottish higher education. Today’s real terms cut to the sector’s funding will ultimately hit students the hardest.  If we value our universities and the teaching, knowledge exchange and research they provide, then we needed a funding settlement to match the politicians’ warm words.  Sadly, we’ve not seen that today.”

Lynn Henderson, PCS union: ‘Broken promises on pay’

“Mr MacKay promised his own staff that the wage decline they have suffered as a result of austerity was over and that last year’s scrapping of the 1% cap represented the first step in a journey towards restoring pay.

“Not only has that journey stalled at the first step, workers across the Scottish civil and public services will feel betrayed by today’s announcement. Plenty of us expect broken promises from the Tories, but in good faith, we took the Cabinet Secretary at his word.

“Our members have lost hundreds of millions of pounds in pay over ten years and the impact on their living standards has been cruel and severe. 3% this year just isn’t good enough, it’s below inflation and therefore, it’s a pay cut.

“The Scottish Government needs to show some courage here, to defy Tory instability and insecurity and give public sector workers the wage they deserve, or otherwise face the consequences of this broken promise.”

Callum Chomczuk, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland: ‘Welcome new housing money’

“We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of £836m in 2019-20 towards the target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes. It is vital that funding for affordable homes is maintained across this Parliament and the next in order to end our housing crisis. This money will help deliver on that commitment.”

“In addition the real terms increase of over £210m for local government spending is vital so local authorities have the confidence to set out future spending plans which continue to invest in Scotland’s homes and communities.”

“However we are disappointed to see a roughly standstill budget with regards to both adaptations funding and fuel poverty. Given our ageing population, adaptations are one of the most effective interventions that support older and disabled people staying in their own home. And with 25 per cent of households considered fuel poor in 2017 it is clear we need to do much to make sure everyone can live in a warm, energy efficient home. More of the same is not enough.”

Picture courtesy of Wendy

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