Stuart McMillan SNP MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde has welcomed the Scottish Government 2021-22 Budget – which can clear its final stages after the Finance Secretary secured agreements with the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats.
This will see the phased introduction of free school meals for all primary pupils, an enhanced public sector pay deal, new Pandemic Support Payments, and additional funding to support environmental, active travel and energy efficiency initiatives.
The Finance Secretary has also confirmed that £90 million provided this year to support a national council tax freeze will be maintained in local authority budgets going forward, and a further £20 million is being allocated to tackle the attainment gap.
Commenting after the Bill was passed by MSPs, Stuart said:
“This budget is being delivered in exceptional circumstances as we continue to battle a pandemic that has shaken our society and economy to the core, and as we face the harmful impacts of Brexit.
“The agreements with the Greens and Lib Dems are an example of cross-party work at a time of national emergency and reflects well on the Scottish Parliament.
“The budget also commits £47.4m to Ferguson Marine. That will help the yard further expand its workforce, and ultimately deliver more ships for Scotland’s ferry fleet.
“At its core this budget focuses on three key guiding principles: national mission for new, good, and green jobs; promotion of lifelong health and wellbeing and, driving equality and helping our young people to grasp their potential.
“It also continues the Scottish Government’s urgent measures to control the virus and protect our economy and people in the immediate term, while also ensuring a strong recovery and a fairer, stronger and greener future.
“The new £130 Pandemic Support Payments will go to households receiving Council Tax Reduction and provide two £100 payments to families of children qualifying for free school meals. This will benefit thousands of households in Inverclyde and provide a helping hand to those struggling financially due to the pandemic.
“Free bus travel will also be extended to under 22s, which will further support young people pursue employment or further and higher education.
“Businesses have also been provided with certainty and stability as this Budget extends 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation firms for 12 months.
“It also delivers an £800 pay rise for public sector workers earning up to £25,000, and a 2% increase for those earning over £25,000 up to £40,000. It also takes total health portfolio funding in excess of £16 billion – an increase of over £800 million – with a further £869 million of funding to address pressures related to COVID-19.
“It’s vitally important that we invest in our economy and protect people from the continued harms that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, and this Scottish Budget does just that.
“In comparison, the UK Government wants to return to their austerity agenda – which is why the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections are crucial.
“It’s clear that Scotland has two choices – a future focused on recovery from COVID-19 and the ills of a Brexit we didn’t vote for, or a future filled with austerity cuts that will only seek to harm those most vulnerable in our communities.”