MSPs Back SNP-Green Budget Agreement

BBC - The Scottish budget has passed its first parliamentary hurdle after winning the support of the Greens.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay had been in negotiations with opposition leaders to find backing for the plans he first outlined in December.

A deal was reached on Wednesday after the Greens won an additional £170m for local councils.

And public sector pay rises will now apply to 75% of workers rather than the 51% that was originally proposed.

The revised budget proposals were approved by 69 votes to 56 in the Scottish Parliament, and now move onto the next stage in the legislative process ahead of a final vote next month.

The Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour voted against, but two Liberal Democrat MSPs backed the proposals.

The agreement means all public sector employees earning up to £36,500 will now receive a minimum 3% pay increase - which Mr Mackay said would cover 80% of NHS staff and the majority of teachers.

An anomaly in Mr Mackay's draft budget proposals from December that would have seen those earning between £43,525 and £58,500 paying less tax rather than more will also be addressed.

Mr Mackay said this would be done by changing the higher rate threshold to £43,438 rather than the £44,274 that had originally been proposed - a move he said would raise an additional £55m in taxation.

But it means the nearly 400,00 people in Scotland who fall into the higher rate bracket will have to pay more tax than under the original proposals.

The increased council funding includes an additional £10.5m to help fund inter-island ferries in Orkney and Shetland.

The minority SNP government had needed to win the support of at least one other party in the Scottish Parliament to pass its budget.

Mr Mackay outlined details of the agreement in the Scottish Parliament after the Greens confirmed a deal had been reached earlier on Wednesday.

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said the extra council funding "more than reverses all of the £157m of local government cuts proposed by the SNP" in its draft budget.

He added: "Last year we stopped the cuts; this year we've pushed the government even further and delivered a real-terms increase in funding, including a fair contribution towards the additional pressures councils are facing.

"While other parties continue to posture from the sidelines, Greens are making Scotland fairer."

Talks had also been held with the Lib Dems, who were seeking more support for education and health along with financial backing for ferry services in Orkney and Shetland, but an agreement could not be reached.

However, additional funding for the ferries will be included in the budget regardless - which was enough to win the backing of Lib Dem MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott, who represent Orkney and Shetland respectively.

Source: BBC News

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