By Bill Heaney
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s draft budget announcement, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has declared that he is open to doing a budget deal with the Scottish Government provided that it represented progress on the key issues for his party and did not contain resources that would enable another independence referendum.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have held talks with the Finance Secretary and are due to meet again after the publication of the budget on Thursday. The parties did a deal in February which saw the Scottish Liberal Democrats support the 2021/22 budget in exchange for £120 million for mental health and more money for the recovery of education after schools were shut for long periods.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured right, said: “On the back of the largest increase in the block grant ever, this budget is an opportunity to secure more progress on the issues that we care about.
“I want to see action on social care – securing better pay and conditions for staff to resolve the urgent workforce problems that are causing no end of problems for families. If these changes are left until after the SNP have messed around with a new centralised care service then pay and conditions will be caught up in years of red tape.
“I want to see a new package of support for sufferers of long Covid. At the moment they would be better off moving to England.
“And I want to see action taken to tackle the climate emergency with rail fares cut and action to decarbonise transport.
“We will also be talking to the Finance Secretary about issues where we have a history of campaigning action such as education, mental health and drugs.
“With the pandemic still ongoing, the economic recovery proving sluggish and fresh threats to household finances on the horizon, it would be irresponsible to support a budget which spends money on the SNP-Green coalition’s campaign to break up the UK.
“However, if we see real progress on the issues that we have prioritised, the Finance Secretary will be able to secure Scottish Liberal Democrat votes.”