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Budget (Scotland) (No 4) Bill: Stage 3

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

Budgets are always finely judged. I accept that voting for a budget en bloc does not mean that we support everything in it, just as voting against a budget does not mean that one supports nothing in it. My point is that we have a Parliament of minorities and we have responsibilities to try to achieve a budget that has broad support. I think that we have done so. We have filled the £95 million hole that was identified by COSLA and we continue to implement the longer-term measures to improve the local government finances that were agreed last year.

I sit with Willie Rennie and Rhoda Grant in the cross-party talks that we secured, and I genuinely hope that if we make the requisite efforts in those talks, we will be able to reach agreement with the Government on scrapping the council tax. However, whether we do so will depend on our own efforts.

Parliament has instigated a new approach to budget scrutiny, which is very welcome. However, as I mentioned last year, and as Kate Forbes mentioned in her opening speech, we need a more strategic approach. Last year, I suggested that we might do better and that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance could convene roundtable talks in September, to be followed by more detailed discussion and negotiation. Building on that progress and trust, parties could then enter into detailed negotiations that would lead to the budget bill. That approach might even involve parties submitting their own proposals to the Finance and Constitution Committee. In other words, there are a lot of things that we could do to make a Parliament that is composed of different parties, such as it is at the moment, work much better.

This is not the budget that a Green Government would have delivered, but it is a better budget than was originally presented by the Government. We will be pleased to support it tonight.