Greens welcomed John Swinney’s last-minute moves during today’s budget debate, including the provision of an additional £4m to support Scotland’s bus services, which should keep fares down across the country and protect lifeline rural services.John Swinney also told Parliament today that the tender process for the M74 would now be re-examined given the outstanding complaint to the European Commission. The Greens believe that this development places a significant question mark over the project’s future. In the light of these announcements, the Scottish Green Party has taken the view that the amended budget is now sufficiently improved to allow the party’s MSPs to abstain. However, a greater shift towards public transport and away from unsustainable road-building would have been required for the Greens to support the SNP’s budget.The following amendments and related concessions have been made by the SNP in response to Green pressure to improve the budget:
- The last-minute £4m increase in funding for bus services across Scotland, which reverses the cuts proposed in the original budget following Parliament’s support for the Green position last week. This increase should be sufficient to prevent the likely cuts in bus services and increases in bus-fares.
- The initial decision to include a Climate Challenge Fund similar to the proposals made in the Scottish Green Party manifesto, albeit on a more limited scale, and the£4.3m increase in the budget line which was secured by the Greens through today’s amendments, bringing the total fund up to £8.8m;
- Ministers’ agreement that future budgets should be carbon costed, and that future policy decisions will include formal recognition of the associated carbon costs;
- A trebling in the level of community and household renewables investment;
- Continued ring-fencing of local budgets for cycling and walking as well as the safer routes scheme; and
- The winding-up of the Air Route Development Fund, which went beyond lifeline routes to the islands and promoted unnecessary internal flights.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“The last few weeks have seen tough negotiations on the budget, and the Scottish Greens have secured significant changes from the SNP throughout the process, right to the very end. In a Parliament where every party is a minority, including the SNP, the right approach for all parties must be to work responsibly together to deliver the best decisions possible for the people of Scotland.
“Two weeks ago we abstained because we wanted to keep the budget process alive, and to allow time for the Greens and other opposition parties to work with Ministers to improve their proposals. The progress Robin and I have achieved during those two weeks across a wide range of policy areas is a clear vindication of this approach.
“Today we have abstained because the budget, improved as it is, still does not go far enough in the right direction for Scotland. There are progressive proposals within it which we welcome, but the SNP still put road-building ahead of public transport.“Scottish Green Party will continue to work constructively with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis to move social justice and sustainability higher up the agenda, and to try and turn around the supertanker of Government policy.”