Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Green Party leader Patrick Harvie.
By Harry Bell in Edinburgh
Ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, tackling inequalities and investing in the economy and our public services are at the forefront of the Scottish Budget, according to the SNP government.
Outlining a “bold, ambitious and progressive” funding package, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said the Budget will accelerate Scotland’s COVID recovery and help transition the country towards becoming fairer, greener and more prosperous.
Record levels of funding will help to restore public services – including a record £18 billion for Health and Social Care – and to respond to the pressures created by the pandemic. Significantly, this Budget will support the next steps in the single greatest public health reform since the establishment of the NHS – the creation of a new National Care Service.
However, the LibDems were not so ebullient about the Budget, which their leader Alex Cole-Hamilton falls short on long Covid, social care and climate change.
Mr Cole-Hamilton criticised the budget, highlighting “key failures” in a number of areas.
He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats have shown we are serious about working with the government on the recovery. We secured £120 million more for mental health in a budget deal earlier this year.
“However, I am concerned to see the prospect of a real-terms pay cut for teachers, nurses and tens of thousands of public sector workers. Coupled with the Tories’ National Insurance hike they are going to feel the pinch.
Alex Cole-Hamilton – “A 48 pence increase for social care staff isn’t going to deliver the transformation the sector so desperately needs.”
“A 48 pence increase for social care staff isn’t going to deliver the transformation the sector so desperately needs and won’t stop the workforce shortages. We need to get on with powerful national bargaining to secure real change, not tie the sector up in years of discussions around a National Care Service. Likewise council funding looks set to be squeezed again as government ringfencing bites
“In my talks with the Finance Secretary I also raised the issue of long Covid, so I was disappointed to see there was no mention of it in either the statement or the budget book. 100,000 Scots are being badly affected by this condition; we need to see urgent action.”
On spending on the Net Zero, Energy and Transport portfolio fall from £4.414bn to £4.413bn, he said: “It’s bizarre and short-sighted that as soon as COP26 is in the rear-view mirror any pretence that this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency vanishes.
“The Scottish Greens must be the only green party in the world to go into government and actually manage to get less money spent on net zero, energy and transport.”
On the inclusion of funds for “the necessary preparations for a Scottish referendum,” he added: “What Scotland needs is a government with a laser focus on the issues that really matter – the recovery from the pandemic, the state of our health service and the climate emergency. Setting resources aside for their pet goal of breaking up the UK suggests that this is a government that is dangerously distracted.”
The Budget funds the SNP’s priority of tackling child poverty and inequality by targeting over £4 billion in social security payments. This includes £197 million to double the game-changing Scottish Child Payment from April 2022, and extend it to under 16’s by the end of 2022, helping to lift an estimated 40,000 children out of poverty in 2023-2024.
It prioritises a green recovery and economic transformation by investing at least £2 billion in infrastructure initiatives that will support green jobs and accelerate efforts to become a net-zero economy, helping to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and ensure no-one and no region is left behind as a result.
The Budget will also deliver certainty and stability for taxpayers, as a foundation for the ongoing recovery. The proposed tax policies will raise the revenues needed to invest in vital public services, including the NHS and the police, as well as provide essential support for those that need it the most.
The proposed tax policies will maintain a progressive approach to taxation, with the majority of taxpayers continuing to pay less Income Tax than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK.
In 2022-23 we will continue to offer support for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, alongside the lowest poundage rate in the UK, and a wider reliefs package worth £745 million. This builds on the current Non-domestic rates policies that have saved businesses in Scotland around £1.6 billion since April 2020.
A new public sector pay policy underlines that national mission to tackle poverty by introducing a public sector wage floor of £10.50 per hour from April 2022, with additional funding for Local Government to ensure this applies to adult social care workers in commissioned services.
Strengthened by the agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party, the 2022-2023 Scottish Budget includes:
- record funding of £18 billion for Health and Social Care, including £12.9 billion for health boards, to ensure the necessary support through the pandemic and accelerate the recovery of vital services
- over £1.6 billion for social care and integration to progress our commitment to increase spend in social care by 25% by the end of this Parliament, and laying the groundwork for the establishment of a National Care Service
- £150 million for walking, wheeling and cycling – progressing our ambitions to create an active travel nation, reduce car kilometres and progress towards net zero
- the biggest increase in funding to support teacher recruitment since 2007, with £145.5 million for the sustained employment of additional teachers and classroom assistants
- £831 million for affordable housing, progressing our commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable, energy efficient homes by 2032
- £123 million to protect and restore nature, woodland creation and the sustainable management of Scotland’s woodlands
- almost £1.4 billion for the police to keep us safe, maintaining our commitment to protect the police resource budget in real terms for the entirety of this Parliament
- the first funding allocation of £20 million for the 10 year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray
- an overall funding package of almost £12.5 billion for local authorities, representing a like with like real terms increase of 4.5 per cent and a fair settlement for Councils
- over £124 million for employability and training, including through the Young Person’s Guarantee, National Transition Training Fund and Fair Start Scotland
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The 2022-2023 Budget addresses our key priorities, targets resources for low income households and paves the way for future investment over the life of this Parliament. It is a budget of choices.
“My last two Budgets have been shaped by our experiences of Covid but we are now lifting our eyes to the future. This is a transitional Budget, as people, businesses and services get back on their feet.
“This Budget focuses on tackling the climate emergency, reducing inequalities and supporting economic recovery. It is the first budget of this partnership in government and has been development in cooperation with the Scottish Green Party, delivering on commitments made as part of the Bute House Agreement. I welcome their support and their constructive challenge.”
Scottish Government Minister and Scottish Green Party Co-Leader Patrick Harvie said: “This Budget delivers on key commitments made in the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens, including making bus travel free to children and young people and doubling the Scottish Child Payment. Our plans will also see over £2 billion invested in tackling the climate emergency, helping accelerate a just transition to a net-zero economy and laying the foundations for a green economic recovery.”