Travel concessions extended as Scottish budget voted through by MSPs

The Scottish Government’s tax and spending plans have been backed by MSPs after deals were reached with the Greens and the Lib Dems.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes reacts next to Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood. Picture: Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty ImagesFinance secretary Kate Forbes reacts next to Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood. Picture: Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images
Finance secretary Kate Forbes reacts next to Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood. Picture: Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images

The £46.5 billion Bill passed at stage three by 70 votes to 53 on Tuesday.

In the past two days, finance secretary Kate Forbes has reached deals with the opposition parties, making this budget the fifth in a row to be supported by the Scottish Greens.

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Before the deals were struck, the budget pledged to extend 100 per cent rates relief, record funding of £16bn for the NHS and more than £145 million to tackle drug and alcohol addiction.

To secure the Greens support for the fifth year in a row, the Scottish Government has pledged to extend the concessionary travel scheme – announced as part of last year’s budget deal and due to come into force this year – to anyone under 22 years old.

Ms Forbes has also agreed to pay rises for public sector workers, amounting to £800, or around 4 per cent, for those earning under £25,000, 2 per cent for those between £25,000 and £49,000 and 1 per cent above that.

The Greens also secured Covid-19 relief payments of up to £130 for low-income families as well as two further instalments of £100 each in August and December for families with children eligible for free school meals.

All primary school pupils in Scotland will also be able to claim free school meals during term time, under the new plans, and £40m will be invested in active travel, energy efficiency and other environmental efforts.

The Lib Dems secured support for education in the form of a pupil equity funding (Pef) premium of £20m and £15m for retraining those who lost their jobs in oil and gas in the north east.

The party also secured a number of concessions at stage one for mental health and education.

The finance secretary also announced in her speech she would advise NHS Lothian to undertake a review of its eye care services and how they are delivered, which could include a replacement for the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh – the recommendations of which she said she would adhere to.

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Speaking during the debate on the Bill, Ms Forbes said: “The ground I have covered today demonstrates how this budget provides stability and certainty for taxpayers and delivers for our economy.

“These are truly unprecedented times that require an unprecedented response.

“This budget delivers that and with cross-party support for it tonight, its passage will help put Scotland on the road to recovery.”

Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser emphasised the deals struck provided no extra funding for local authorities, adding: “Once again, local councils are the whipping boy of an SNP budget.”

Labour’s Daniel Johnson said his party could not back the Scottish Government budget plans, highlighting the failure to give a greater pay rise to care workers as a key reason for this.

He said the “critical vital work that they do, caring for the most vulnerable in society, has been undervalued and underpaid for far too long”, while his party pushed for an immediate pay rise to £12 per hour, before an eventual increase to £15.



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