Scottish budget given final approval by MSPs

The Scottish Parliament has formally approved the Government’s tax and spending plans for 2019-20 in the budget’s final vote at Holyrood.

The minority SNP administration was able to ensure it passed after securing a deal last month with the Greens.

MSPs voted by 66 to 58 in favour of the budget, with the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats voting against.

The controversial arrangement will mean local authorities can raise council tax by almost 5% in the coming year.

Councils are also being given powers to introduce a workplace parking levy or a new tourist tax on hotel stays.

The income tax divide between Scotland and the rest of the UK will grow from April, when taxpayers south of the border will benefit from an increase in the threshold for the higher rate of the charge.

In the rest of the UK, the 40p rate will only apply to earnings over £50,000, but in Scotland people will be charged income tax at 41p when their salary goes above £43,430.

Speaking in the budget debate, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said the tax and spending plan “safeguards Scotland as best as we can”.

He warned the budget is based on an orderly Brexit resulting from a deal with the EU and would not apply in event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, which he said is “increasingly likely”.

Mr Mackay said: “We will have no choice in this parliament but to revisit the spending proposals and priorities to limit the economic self-harm being imposed upon Scotland by Westminster.

“With all the best will in the world, devolution and the current limited powers will not be enough to mitigate the economic catastrophe that’s coming our way.”

Mr Mackay said the budget provides a “fair financial settlement” for local government, with councils’ overall spending power potentially up by some £620 million and ensures Scotland remains the “lowest taxed part of the UK”.

How local authorities use a workplace parking levy is up to each individual council, he added, but he said in England, where councils already have this power, only Nottingham City Council has introduced the tax.

He added: “The passage of the budget today provides £42.5 billion of investment in our public services and our economy to the benefit of the people of Scotland.”

Mr Mackay said the Greens were the only party to have “engaged constructively” on the budget, adding: “This year, unionist parties may have been in the room – credible budget alternatives were absent.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser branded it an “omnishambles budget” and said the “ludicrous” plans for car park tax could cost workers up to £500 a year.

He said instead of moves to boost productivity, “we have an SNP Government that would rather hike up taxes for working families, penalise the poorest with a regressive car park tax and at the same time slash our public services”.

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie
Scottish Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie said criticism of the workplace parking levy was ‘dismal’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie criticised the “dismal” reaction to the workplace parking levy.

He said: “This is a proposal legislated for down south by a Labour government, used by a Labour council, proposed by Scottish Labour councillors, supported by Lib Dem MSPs and councillors in the past, voted for by Tory councillors in the past.

“The fact that they’ve decided that it is an intolerable policy when we propose it, but now when they proposed it, is simply a mark of shameless political opportunism.”

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly said: “The SNP have ignored calls for a fair budget, awarded tax cuts to high earners, imposed cuts on councils that will reduce jobs, close services and hit vulnerable people hardest.”

He added: “The reality of this budget is you’ve got cuts, cuts, cuts all over the country.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said his party has been “prepared to work with the SNP” but said there is “no way we could support a budget of a government determined to drive forward yet another divisive independence referendum”.

Read Full Story