Draft Budget 2017-18 (Timetable)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th October 2016.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am grateful that the smaller parties have a chance to participate in what is a relatively short debate. It is important for us to have the debate, and I argued in the Finance Committee that the issue should be brought to the chamber. I pay tribute to Bruce Crawford for the way in which he has chaired that committee and sought consensus, which I acknowledge was not easy.

I also acknowledge the difficult position that Mr Mackay and the Scottish Government are in. I do not pretend for a moment that this is easy. However, it is important to acknowledge that, instead of a committee debate, with a motion that says that we should debate the timetable, the Opposition parties could have insisted on a substantive debate, with motions, amendments and votes at decision time. We did not do that. We could have agreed to a letter that demanded that a draft budget be published in October, as set out by one of the earlier proposed timetables. We did not do that either. At every stage, we have sought to give the cabinet secretary not only an incentive but an opportunity to bring forward a budget process that is up to the job.

The letter that Mr Mackay referred to, which told us what he was able to talk about, largely indicated that he was willing to expand on information that is already in the public domain or to set out some of the choices that the UK Government might make. We can all speculate about that, just as the Fraser of Allander institute can, but what we—and our subject committees—need is to be able to consider the choices that the Scottish Government will make in response and how that will impact on many of the things that we all care about.

I will disagree with some of the things that are anticipated in the budget when it is proposed, and I will agree with others. I want radical investment in the provision of much more childcare in Scotland. I want the investment that has long been needed in a national infrastructure priority for energy efficiency. As our subject committees meet and take evidence ahead of the draft budget, I want to know whether those things are under threat and what the impact will be if the Scottish Government’s budget is indeed cut.

Others might be concerned to know whether the Scottish Government’s existing tax plans—on income tax or air passenger duty or at a local level—will have to change as a result of the budget. Local councils and other public bodies around Scotland are trying to make their plans now. They are trying to look ahead and they are all having to do that under the assumption of the worst-case scenario, because nothing else is out there.

I express gratitude to the members who have added their names to my motion. I reinforce to SNP colleagues that I lodged a motion deliberately to express the support of members who share that view and not to force a vote but to give the cabinet secretary the opportunity—I hope that he will take it in his closing speech—to give us more information about what he will put into the public domain.