The Green Party steps up its fight to get a hated Tory policy abolished in Scotland

Patrick Harvie - Co Convenor of the Scottish Green Party
Chris Jarvis

While much of the country is focused on Brexit, another crisis is brewing in Scotland. On 12 December, the Scottish government is set to announce its budget. But the Scottish Green Party is threatening to bring it down.

The Greens are demanding the Scottish government reform the council tax system – introduced by a Conservative government – and protect local services or it won’t enter budget talks.

Local services funding “broken”

The Scottish Green Party says it wants “a commitment to reform local tax to make the system fairer, protect services & cut inequality” from the SNP government.

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In a statement, Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie also said:

Scotland’s system of funding our vital local services is broken, and we urgently need the reforms which almost every party agreed to before the last election. Since then the Government has stalled, and this cannot be allowed to go on.

He continued:

Replacing Council Tax with a fairer alternative can’t happen overnight, but the work must begin now. Three years ago this week the SNP agreed with the Greens, Labour and the LibDems that ‘The present system of Council Tax must end’. If they are unwilling to recommit to that policy and start working on making that pledge a reality, then they will be choosing to close off any chance of reaching a budget agreement with the Greens.

This echoes earlier comments from the party’s local government spokesperson Andy Wightman. Speaking after the party’s conference in October, he said:

Everyone relies on local services, from schools and social care to leisure centres and libraries. These services employ 240,000 people but the staff and the public are suffering cuts and increased charges as SNP Ministers keep a stranglehold on funding.

He continued:

It’s not too late for ministers to move in the right direction for the sake of local services and to renew Scotland’s local democracy.

Alternative systems

The Scottish Green Party has endorsed a range of solutions to address the local funding issue. In a motion passed at its conference, the party called for the introduction of measures such as visitor levies, environmental taxes, and a tax on vacant land. In its manifesto for the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, the party also supported a local tax system that is more closely linked to the value of people’s houses. The party claims that this system would see most households in Scotland pay less in tax. It also says it would deliver £490m extra for local services.

The minority SNP government relies on the votes of other parties to pass its budgets. The Greens have historically supported these budgets in exchange for concessions.

If the Greens manage to force the SNP to concede to some of these measures, it could be the beginning of the end for council tax in Scotland.

Featured image via Alf Melin – Flickr

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