Rennie wants more investment
LibDems out of Budget talks as SNP refuses to drop indyref
Willie Rennie: ‘no choice but to exit discussions’
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have pulled out of talks on the Budget with the SNP over its refusal to take independence off the table.
LibDem leader Willie Rennie said despite areas of common interest, explored over two meetings, the SNP’s continued resistance to dropping calls for an independence referendum for two years left his party with no choice but to the exit the discussions.
Mr Rennie argued that independence would leave the country poorer and therefore unable to fund vital services.
He said: “We offered clear priorities to invest in people through education and mental health.
“We were prepared to work with them to turn around the severe problems of staffing shortages in the NHS and schools.
“We were prepared to step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power eleven years ago.
“We wanted investment in mental health. This would have included counselling services in all schools as well as extra mental health staff in A&E departments, GP surgeries and police stations.
“On education, the current level of teacher vacancies shows we cannot afford to ignore the need to give teachers a fair pay deal, better than their current offer.
“The shortages and cutbacks in schools across Scotland show that local council budgets are not able to keep up with demand and maintain standards. It is why we argued that local government needed a much better settlement.
“But the SNP insisted that their damaging and costly plan for an independence referendum had to stay on the table.
“That was unacceptable to us. The SNP’s own Growth Commission admits that their plans will see us poorer after breaking up. Public services will be hit. Breaking up is hard to do. The lessons of Brexit are the lessons for independence. So it is disappointing that the Scottish Government won’t learn and set aside their independence plans.
“I met with Derek Mackay and Kate Forbes on two occasions to explore what could be done but the talks ended when they could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign.
“This means the Scottish Government are stuck with the Greens and are at their mercy.
“This will cause problems for important Scottish industries in North East Scotland and see big tax rises.
“We are waiting for the formal publication of the Scottish Fiscal Commission’s estimates of tax receipts. Liberal Democrats support a balance in taxation that is fair to taxpayers and provides enough revenue to invest in the economy through education and mental health.
“The public need to have confidence in the tax system, and ministers should not be automatically ramping up tax every year.
“We still hope that the Scottish Government will see the sense of dropping independence for the rest of this Parliament, put the country first and produce a budget which can gain the support of the Liberal Democrats. They need to begin to clear up the failings their eleven years in office have caused to workforce planning and staffing in education and the NHS.”
SNP branded the ‘pay more get less’ government
The SNP has been branded the ‘pay more get less’ government by the Scottish Conservatives in advance of the Scottish budget. week.
The Tories say the SNP has already made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK and has failed to improve public services or pass on those tax rises to local authorities or the health service.
Derek Mackay, the Finance Secretary, has now been urged not to introduce further tax rises.
Conservatives say that over the last year, Scottish taxpayers have had to pay an additional £219 million and Scottish businesses an extra £64 million, due to the large business rate supplement.
In addition, they accuse the SNP of failng to use taxpayers cash to improve the health service or in local government.
The latest figures have revealed that if the SNP government had invested the same proportion of expenditure in GPs as NHS England over the last four years, they would have received £658million extra in real terms.
Meanwhile, local council resource funding has fallen by 9.6% since 2010/11 according to the latest Audit Scotland report.
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative finance spokesman said: “The SNP has made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK for businesses and people, and yet people are still waiting months for cancer diagnoses.
“The lack of improvement of public services demonstrates beyond all doubt that the SNP is a pay more, get less government.
“The SNP has received an enormous budget boost this year of almost one billion pounds. With all this additional money, there can be no reason for any tax rises on hardworking Scottish families.
“The SNP must give taxpayers a fair deal on taxation, invest in public services and no new tax rises.”