Young people under 19 are set to benefit from the Scottish government’s deal with political party Scottish Green to provide the youth free bus travel as part of the effort to tackle climate change.
The deal will also include an additional £45 million for the funding of low-carbon projects that address energy efficiency and active travel.
The SNP-Green budget deal
The Scottish government is gearing towards establishing a free bus travel scheme for the youth aged 18 years old and younger by January 2021 as one of the conditions of the deal between the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Green Party.
Scottish Green agreed to back the government’s spending plans, including the ministers allocating £80 million a year so teenagers across Scotland can ride the bus for free from next year onwards.
The agreement also includes an additional £95 million to fund local authorities, £18 million for police services, and an extra £45 million to back low-carbon projects that tackle climate change, which involves active travel and energy efficiency.
The scheme will be paid for via additional consequential funds taken from fossil fuel levy, limited underspending amounts, and a multi-year approach to non-domestic rates without touching the revenues for local authorities.
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie stated the deal towards free bus travel for the youth would be another step taken towards addressing the climate emergency. He acknowledged the project’s benefit to those starting college, helping some families to save thousands of pounds per year. The party also looks forward to supporting commuters through the said plan.
Harvie recognised the role of buses as the local public transport’s backbone, fostering employment opportunities for people who are starting in life.
Supporting the public
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes stated the government is pleased that the SNP-Scottish Green agreement has been reached, given that the UK government has delayed the establishment of its budget. She added the funding would cover health services and significant investments to answer the ongoing climate crisis.
Forbes thanked the parties involved and their constructive approach to the recent discussions. She stated it’s impossible to meet all the pleas of every party, but believes that the formal agreement with Scottish Green delivers key demands from other parties.
Forbes then encouraged all MSPs to hand their support to the Scottish budget.
The Finance secretary further discussed the deal increasing the financial exposure of the government, but assured that public services would be adequately funded and social security payments can continue.
Frustration from opposing forces
Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the Greens keep capitulating to the SNP as they concede critical demands time and again. He stated how the budget causes a shortfall of several million pounds to the police, leaving problems for the hard-pressed service.
Rennie revealed the local government capital had been slashed by £117 million because of the SNP pushing to protect the budget for an independence referendum this year. He said the Liberal Democrats would vote against the proposed budget because it stops other matters from being agreed upon.
Scottish Conservatives dubbed the plan as a deficit to what public services and the economy need. Finance spokesman Donald Cameron stated the Tory MSPs would not support the budget unless additional funding would be allocated for drug rehabilitation services.
Scottish Labour expressed its disappointment that the Green Party sells themselves short, as well as the local councils and the environment year after year, despite Labour calling to widen the free bus travel system.
Meanwhile, the government will also be reviewing plans to enhance the Edinburgh bypass’ Sheriffhall roundabout even though ministers have snubbed calls from the Green Party to stop works on the A96 and A9.
The final vote for the budget bill is set for March 5th, while the additional terms of the Scottish Green deal are to be made in the week following the examination of the budget by the designated MSP committee.