CLARE’S COLUMN IN THE RUTHERGLEN REFORMER

Last week saw the Scottish Government’s Budget, including new Scottish Income Tax rates, passed in Parliament.

As a minority administration, the SNP Government had to negotiate and consult with opposition parties in order to get the budget passed – however there were stark contrasts in their attitudes. Whilst the Greens engaged constructively from the outset, Labour and the Tories were woefully uninterested in the process and, instead, chose to carp from the side-lines.

The budget goes through a formal process of scrutiny from committees and the parliament as a whole – yet Labour did not put forward their proposals when they had ample opportunity to do so, only coming up with “back of a fag packet” proposals, full of factual blunders, neither competent nor coherent, and produced 48 hours before the debate.

What confidence can Labour voters have if their own party’s MSPs cannot be bothered to co-operate with the Scottish Government and look to improve the budget, and then subsequently vote with the Tories against the progressive measures that were included?

The Tories – the so-called opposition – did not even bother presenting an alternative budget. Preferring instead to confirm that they are steadfastly against progressive, proportionate changes to income tax which would see higher earners – those with the broadest shoulders – paying more tax, despite the majority of people in Scotland supporting such changes.

The Tories would have cut tax revenue by £501 million – that’s the equivalent of our NHS losing over 12,000 nurses – without explaining how this would reverse the £200 million real terms cut from Scotland’s resource block grant from the UK Government, nor the impact this would have on public services.

It is absolutely clear, both the Tories and Labour, are completely uninterested in the serious business of government.

The SNP’s progressive reforms on income tax, which will see 70% of people pay less than they did last year, and 55% of people in Scotland paying less than they would if they lived south of the border, are vital to facilitate the budget’s funding increases, despite continued austerity being imposed by the Tories at Westminster. Through this SNP budget, Scotland will be not only the fairest-taxed part of the UK but, for the majority of taxpayers, the lowest-taxed part of the UK.

This was a Scottish Budget which provides extra funding for our NHS – with NHS Lanarkshire receiving over £1.1 billion in the next financial year, extra provision for education, more money for our economy, research and our environment – as well as protecting free university tuition, free personal care for the elderly, free school meals and free prescriptions.

The budget also includes, yet again, a fair settlement for local government. Local authorities are our partners in delivering vital services and the Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.

South Lanarkshire Council are guaranteed a 2.16% increase in their resource budget providing extra funding for schools, roads and housing. This extra settlement, equating to an additional £12 million for the coming year, is good news for our local communities and our local government workers.

The SNP Scottish Government’s budget also delivers a pay rise for workers in our public sector – the only part of the UK to make such a commitment, proving that when it comes to supporting our public sector workers, only the SNP can be trusted.

As the local government settlement has become clearer, it has been good to see the constructive initiatives which the SNP administration on South Lanarkshire are already planning to roll out.

Including, bringing forward proposals to roll-out free breakfast clubs to all primary schools, piloting Holiday Lunch Clubs in areas of high deprivation, protecting library provision – bucking the trend of the previous Administration’s cuts, and committing a further £2 million to the winter maintenance fund.

In addition to the money distributed directly from the Scottish Government’s budget, 23 local schools in Rutherglen and Cambuslang will also benefit from a share of nearly £1.7 million in additional funding as part of the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) – an initiative helping to tackle the attainment gap. This additional money is made available to head teachers to address some of the specific issues that might be affecting attainment in their particular schools.

This was a budget that works for my constituents in Rutherglen and Cambuslang. A budget that shows how Scotland is on the right path to a better future.

Date published: 28th February 2018

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