THE SCOTTISH Conservatives have demanded the SNP sets out a ”Budget in the national interest” on Thursday as the party will formally call for legislation for a second referendum to be binned.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will deliver her draft Budget later this week – and has ruled out a public-sector pay freeze and pointed to sectors stressing the need for targeted support.
M Forbes also hinted at the extension of rates relief for businesses but said the Scottish Government currently has “limited resources” with which to offer such support due to the delay in the UK Government’s spending pledges announcement.
At the Budget, the Scottish Conservatives will formally call on plans to legislate for an independence referendum, which were included in Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government last year, to be scrapped.
The party’s leader, Douglas Ross, has warned that any public spending on a second referendum is a waste of resources and a distraction amid the health and economic emergency brought on by the pandemic.
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The Scottish Conservatives have called on the SNP to make the pandemic and Scotland’s economic recovery the focus of Thursday’s Scottish Budget.
The Conservatives are proposing no tax rises, further business support, business rates relief on leisure, retail and hospitality firms and NHS funding as their priorities in next year’s Budget. The party has also pointed to prioritising teacher training, free school meals and more funding for councils.
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Mr Ross said: “It would be reckless and irresponsible of the SNP to try and force through a referendum as early as this year when all our focus should be on fighting the pandemic and rebuilding Scotland.
“The Scottish Conservatives will demand the Budget should prioritise support for jobs and increased funding for our under-strain NHS and local services.
“This must be a Budget in the national interest, not the nationalist interest. Making indyref2 the priority is a huge distraction from the massive challenges at hand.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens have called on the SNP to show ambition for a fair recovery from the pandemic and urgency in tackling the climate crisis in Thursday’s draft Budget.
The Greens have claimed this year’s budget should reflect the current challenges of the need to create new jobs with investment in low-carbon industries and ensuring that Scotland’s most vulnerable are protected in the pandemic recovery plans.
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Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The triple crises we face as a nation of Brexit, the pandemic and the climate emergency mean that this is a more important budget than ever.
“As always, the Greens stand ready to play a constructive role, but the SNP must place a higher priority on protecting the vulnerable and ensuring a fair and green recovery.”
He added: “Even before the pandemic, targets on child poverty and climate emissions were being shamefully missed, so it is imperative that the budget laid out by Kate Forbes addresses those rather than make them worse.
“We need to see significant investment in public transport, green energy and warm homes, creating green jobs and building a fairer Scotland.”