Labour accused of 'stunt' with no confidence vote on budget

Scottish Labour was accused of a "parliamentary stunt" after pushing for what it described as a vote of "no confidence" in the draft budget.

The party tabled a motion at Holyrood stating the Scottish Government's 2018/19 tax and spending plans do not protect public services.

Labour said Finance Secretary Derek Mackay's proposals were "not fit for purpose" and would not prevent further cuts in areas such as local government.

However, opponents criticised the party for failing to bring forward its own plans as part of the negotiation process with the minority SNP administration.

Labour's finance spokesman James Kelly said: "We can't have any confidence in a budget that is neither progressive or fair, that piles the agony and piles the pain onto local communities.

"It is also weak and incompetent on tax, and lacks transparency in relation to (public sector) pay policy.

"So, it is not fit for purpose and as such we declare that Mr Mackay has to change that budget dramatically if it is to fill the gaps that exist in Scotland's communities because of the lack of funding."

Mr Kelly said councils had been penalised, quoting figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre showing council revenue funding is down by £135 million for 2018/19, and from local government body Cosla stating it needed an extra £545 million "just to stand still".

He said government proposals to increase income tax - expected to raise an extra £164 million - did not go far enough to fill the gap.

When asked how Labour would raise further revenue, Mr Kelly said: "Having seen what a mess the Cabinet Secretary made of his tax proposals, Labour will take adequate time ... we will publish in full our tax proposals ahead of the stage one debate."

Responding to the motion, Mr Mackay said: "I think as parliamentary stunts go, that was about as woeful as I have ever seen in the Scottish Parliament.

"I think rather than asking questions of the confidence in the Scottish Government's budget, what that presentation does is ask questions of the confidence in the Labour Party to deliver alternatives, or to be able to construct an argument in which they can engage positively in the budget process."

He insisted his budget would protect public services, with councils receiving real-terms growth if they increased council tax by the maximum 3%.

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "If the Labour Party had really wanted to be serious about influencing the direction of the budget, it is quite entitled to sit down and make a case to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance as to what changes it wants to make.

"I really think Mr Kelly would have been on stronger ground had he come to the chamber and set out not only what additional spending the Labour Party want to see but also set out the tax changes they would make to pay for it."

Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "We ought to be at a point where opposition parties are putting forward positive constructive ideas to the government which can make the budget better."

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