MEMBERS of the Scottish Greens are demanding a reversal to council cuts as the party considers whether it wants to stay in government.

A Green councillor in Glasgow has said the party must “put a stop to the calamitous council cuts”, with an Audit Scotland report in 2023 warning of looming budget reductions in the years ahead.

According to the spending watchdog, council budgets are forecast to fall by 1.5% in this financial year, another 1% following year and by 1.2% the next.

But the same report found that funding in the 2021-22 Budget had brought council’s day-to-day funding back to the levels it was around a decade ago.

The influential Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has said that the Scottish Government’s resource funding fell by 6% between 2010–11 and 2017–18, driven by cuts to block grant funding from the UK Government.

One of the key pressures on the Bute House Agreement is the SNP’s decision to impose a council tax freeze on local authorities.

READ MORE: See how SNP and Green ratings changed since Bute House Agreement was signed

It went against a 2021 manifesto commitment by the Scottish Greens who promised they would “never dictate the levels at which councils can set local taxes from Holyrood”.

Finance Secretary Shona Robison (below) in February announced local authorities would be handed an extra £62.7 million after council leaders complained the money set aside to freeze council tax was not enough.

The National: Deputy FM Shona Robison makes a statement to the Scottish Parliament on October 31

Greens councillor Seonad Hoy (below, centre), who represents Hillhead in Glasgow, said: “The disastrous cuts to local authorities date back to long before the Greens entered government. But since signing the Bute House Agreement we have seen little but minor mitigations of the worst of the Scottish Government’s austerity.

The National: L to R: Green MSP Patrick Harvie, newly-elected councillor Seonad Hoy, and veteran councillor

“Blaming funding problems on Westminster is overly simplistic. We need to see Scottish Greens put a stop to the calamitous council cuts.

“If Scottish Greens are ‘in the room’, why are we not seeing them put local democracy front and centre of everything our leadership do?

"Our MSPs cannot be scared to increase income tax, or stand up to the SNP on a council tax freeze, while teachers are facing job losses and another wave of public sector strikes are on the horizon.”

READ MORE: Patrick Harvie says he will quit as Scottish Greens leader if party bins SNP deal

Hoy added that if the party was to stay in government its MSPs “cannot watch on as councils slide towards bankruptcy by uncritically voting through SNP budgets. Communities would never forgive us”.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens Trade Union Group said that there had been “little action” on implementing the recommendations of a Scottish Trades Union Council report published in 2022 which called for public sector pay rises funded by changes to income and business taxes.

The National: Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, pictured at the STUC's new offices in Bridgeton, Glasgow
Photograph by Colin Mearns, Jan 22, 2022

They added: “If the party votes to remain in government then we must see greens in government put pressure on our SNP partners to commit to those much needed tax proposals that will fund our public services at the local and national level, fund pay rises for the workers who run those services day to day, and help create the fairer, greener Scotland that was promised to us when we entered the Bute House Agreement.

“It would be a betrayal of our democratic eco-socialist values to remain complicit in passing down funding cuts to local authorities, communities and working people when the STUC and the wider trade union movement have already set out a real alternative to austerity.”

But Greens MSP Ross Greer said the party had secured a number of key wins in government – including changes to income tax he said had brought in more than £1.5 billion to the public purse.

READ MORE: SNP MSP urges Humza Yousaf to end Bute House Agreement before Greens do

He also pointed to tax increases for the highest earners, a tax increase on the purchase of holiday homes and new powers for councils to double council tax on second homes.

He added: “We have also given councils the ability to double council tax on second and holiday homes, and we are creating other new financial powers for them, such as a cruise ship levy, infrastructure levy and a carbon tax on big estates.

“We have made important strides in tackling child poverty, including cancelling school meal debt, mitigating Westminster’s brutal benefit cap, expanding the groundbreaking Scottish Child Payment, making payment of the real living wage a condition of receiving a Scottish Government grant or contract, applying the government’s own real living wage policy to its apprentices and interns and new rules soon to published which will limit the costs of school uniforms.

“As our opponents often confirm, that is the Scottish Greens punching well above our weight in government.”

But the Green MSP said local authorities were in need of “much more fundamental reform”.

The National: Ross Greer

Greer (above) added: “That is why we secured agreement earlier this year for the Scottish Government to explore with councils what a power of general competence would look like – a technical sounding but sweeping and transformational change to their financial powers.

“I absolutely believe that a positive outcome to that and other important reforms processes for local government is dependent on Scottish Greens continuing in government.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers recognise the crucial role councils play in communities across Scotland.

"That’s why the Scottish Government has made available over £14 billion to local councils this year – a real-terms increase of 2.5% compared with the previous year.

“The Scottish Government also provided a real-terms increase in revenue funding for local government between 2013-14 and 2023-24, as confirmed by the Accounts Commission.”