Green MSPs have called for a fresh debate about replacing the Council Tax and funding local authorities.
Responding to the publication of the draft budget for 2015/16, the Greens said that it was no longer credible that the one major tax that has been under Scottish Government control since the start of devolution remains unreformed. There is broad agreement that the Council Tax is a regressive, unfair tax, but the challenge of reforming it has been avoided by a freeze on rates since 2007.
On other issues, the Greens have welcomed new spending commitments on affordable housing, new colleges and increased spending on the NHS.
Patrick Harvie MSP and finance spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said:
“There is talk today of a historic moment as new tax rates are set, and yet the one major tax we’ve had control of since 1999 is Council Tax, which remains unfair and unreformed. It is no longer credible for the Scottish Government to dodge the debate about how we empower local government and fairly fund its services. We have the power to change this now so, at this time of great debate in Scotland, I want to see all parties coming together to work on a solution within this session of Parliament.
“The Finance Secretary deserves praise for setting a progressive top rate of tax on housing transactions and increasing funding for affordable housing, in stark contrast to the Conservatives’ approach to wealth accumulation.
“However despite the availability of new borrowing powers, Mr Swinney is continuing to transfer money from revenue budgets and into capital. This could, and should, be used to give more public sector employees a pay rise that keeps pace with the cost of living.
“The harsh reality of this budget is that regardless of what further devolution we might see in the years to come, the Scottish Parliament must continue to mitigate Westminster’s relentless austerity agenda. To see mitigation funds of £81million for just this year is a damning indictment of the welfare cuts the three big UK parties are signed up to.”
Alison Johnstone MSP and health and education spokesperson for the Greens said:
“Protecting the NHS budget is vital but only a much greater shift towards preventative spending will begin to tackle Scotland’s health inequalities and the challenges of a population living longer and having more complex care needs. I’m pleased to see a new focus on the uptake of Healthy Start vouchers, an issue I raised with Ministers earlier this year.
“Our colleges have been treated as the poor relation of universities, so I very much welcome funds going towards new campuses in Fife and Forth Valley. We still need the Scottish Government to rethink its attitude towards college courses, as their withdrawal of funding for part-time places was the wrong choice.”