Business backs package

Free bus travel allows SNP to reach budget deal with Greens

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes: impressed

Free bus travel for under-19s and more money for local government look likely following an SNP-Green party budget deal.

New Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said free bus travel would be a “step change” in supporting young people and helping tackle climate change.

MSPs will deliver the first of three rounds of votes on the budget today and businesses are pleased that the deal will allow it to pass and provide some further certainty.

Ms Forbes, who was promoted to the job after impressing as stand-in for the disgraced Derek Mackay on budget day, has also eased business concerns with no changes to income tax rates.

She is expected to confirm the extension to concessionary travel from January 2021, with young people joining the over-60s in being eligible for free bus trips.

There is much within the Budget that retailers can get behind

– David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium

The deal with the Greens will also see an extra £95m for local authorities, £18m for the police and £45m to low carbon projects, including energy efficiency projects and active travel. There will be £5m to further develop options for enhanced rail services.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Firms will breathe a sigh of relief that MSPs are set to pass a Budget in a timely fashion. 

“Whilst not perfect, there is much within the Budget that retailers can get behind, in particular those aspects which keep down the cost of doing business and cost of living, during what remains a challenging time for the retail industry in Scotland.

“The below-inflation uplift in the poundage rate, the lifting of the threshold for the large business rates supplement, and the protection of ordinary taxpayers from rises in income tax rates, are very welcome and its encouraging that none of these measures have been diluted as a result of the accord with the Green Party.”

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