Read TFN's round-up of sector commentary
Scotland’s voluntary sector has broadly welcomed commitments made in the new Scottish budget – saying it takes “useful steps” in terms of progressive policy.
Charities in particular welcomed the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment – a direct demand by many and a testament to the sector’s campaigning power.
There was also a welcome for the decision to raise care workers’ pay from £10.02 per hour to £10.50 – again a move which follows on from action already taken by some charities.
In total, the budget contains £18 billion for health and social care and 1.2bn for mental health.
There were a whole tranche of green initiatives announced, which were to be expected from the inclusion of the Scottish Green Party in a coalition government at Holyrood – a move which guarantees this draft budget will pass, probably unamended.
Environmental moves included a £150 million investment in cycling and walking and £360m for energy efficiency and renewable heat as part of the zero carbon buildings strategy.
Meanwhile, The first allocation of Just Transition funding for the north east and Moray will see investment in alternative jobs for oil and gas workers, and A £53m has been pledged to “protect and restore nature”, though details of what this means are scant.
The latest spending plans will also see £1.4bn invested in improving and decarbonising Scotland’s railways and over £300m on buses, including a new fund to develop local bus companies.
TFN has rounded up commentary from across Scotland’s voluntary sector. We will add more as it comes in.
John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:
“The use of this budget to invest in children and double the new Scottish Child Payment is absolutely the right thing to do. It really is a big step forward on the path to meeting Scotland’s child poverty targets. The increased payment will be welcomed by families across the country who are currently facing impossible choices trying to make ends meet as Universal Credit cuts bite, energy prices soar and the wider costs of living rise. They will spend the extra cash in local shops and businesses, helping to drive economic recovery.
“More action will be needed in the years ahead to ensure child poverty targets are met and every child grows up with adequate resources to give them a decent start in life. As a country we must build on today’s budget breakthrough and continue to invest in the social security, childcare, decent jobs, housing and local public services that are critical to families.”
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said:
"This Scottish Government budget contains a number of welcome commitments. Doubling the Scottish Child Payment from April, as we and so many others across Scotland campaigned hard for, will help stem the rising tide of poverty across the country. Introducing free bus travel for young people under 22 is also a positive step toward a transport system that can tackle inequality.
“But with over one million people in Scotland living in the grip of poverty, it is clear that we cannot let up. In 2022 we must see these actions built upon, with further steps taken to build a Scottish social security system that unlocks people from poverty. We must also go further in redesigning our public services, like by extending free bus travel available to all under 25s and to everyone on low incomes."
Claire Telfer, Save the Children’s head of Scotland said:
“We wholeheartedly welcome today’s budget announcement from the Scottish Government that sees the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment from April 2022 and other commitments to put money in the pockets the families who need it most.
“This winter especially, we will see families struggle with inflated bills to heat their homes as well as rising food prices and costs of living.
“Last month, a parent told us "I don’t really manage to pay all essential bills. I’ve not had our heating on all year, only a handful of times and that was when our daughter was born."
Another parent said (of the rising costs) said: "It is causing me so much anxiety and I struggle to sleep at night worrying about it."
“Even after the Scottish Child Payment increases and is extended to under 16’s, too many children will be living in poverty and we will remain some way off achieving Scotland’s statutory child poverty targets.
“Today’s priorities are very welcome. We will need a continued focus on children and tackling child poverty by putting money directly into parent’s pockets next year and beyond.”
Enable Group chief executive Theresa Shearer said: “We warmly welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of a fully funded uplift in care workers’ pay from £10.02 per hour to £10.50 per hour next year, and are delighted to see Enable Scotland’s policy of enhancing frontline pay yet further beyond the real Living Wage being followed nationally.
“In demonstration sites where Enable Scotland raised pay by 50p per hour, we have seen staff turnover reduced by up to three times, proving the impact enhanced pay has on recruitment and retention in frontline social care services at a challenging time for the sector.
“This is an important milestone, but not the final destination for pay and conditions in social care. This intervention is of course extremely welcome, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and partners to ensure the overall package of terms and conditions for a highly skilled, professional workforce truly reflects the value of their critical contribution to society.”
Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy Lead of WWF Scotland, said:
“It’s good to see the finance secretary deliver climate actions agreed by the SNP and Green Party in this budget. We welcome increased funding to clean up home heating, build new walking and cycling infrastructure and to restore carbon-rich habitats, such as peatlands and woodlands. These investments will cut carbon, improve health and create jobs – but this falls short of the transformational budget needed for the climate and nature emergency we still face.
“Just this week the Scottish Government’s own advisors on climate warned that meeting our 2030 target hangs in the balance. In the years ahead, the Scottish Government will need to continue to increase investment to green our homes and ensure that rural support is transformed to deliver for climate and nature.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland's director Dr Richard Dixon said:
“This budget takes some useful steps in the right direction on the funding needed to properly tackle the climate crisis, and by making that action one of the three stated priorities.
“There are important moves in this budget to address the transport sector which is the most climate polluting sector of Scottish life. Funding for walking and cycling has increased to record levels and sets us on the way to deliver the promise of 10% of the transport budget going on active travel.
"A 20% increase in the fund which helps bus companies transition to electric vehicles is very welcome with thousands of buses needing to be replaced over the next two years. Funding to help councils develop bus companies and significantly increased funding for rail are also good news.
“We have been consistently calling for free public transport, and while we welcome continuing funding for free travel for under 22s in Scotland, public transport should be free at the point of use for everyone.
“There is a massive challenge to make Scotland’s homes and buildings more energy efficient and the government has promised to invest £1.8 billion over this parliament but the £336 million allocated in this budget fails to give this work the flying start it needs.
“The first phase of the Just Transition Fund is welcome and it is positive that key projects are to be identified by the people who will be impacted by the transition. This investment must be deployed and scaled up urgently, to ensure the projects chosen by workers and communities lead to decent green jobs and social benefits as quickly as possible.
“When we see the full detail of the spending plans we will be looking to ensure that the Scottish Government is not pouring further millions of public money into prolonging the life of fossil fuel companies via the pipe dream of carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS is a dangerous distraction from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from our energy sector and transition away from oil and gas throughout the crucial decade up to 2030.
“The UK Committee on Climate Change report released on Tuesday highlighted that the Scottish Government was not doing enough to reach its emissions reductions targets. This budget takes some of the right steps but we need to urgently accelerate action to address the climate emergency.“
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) welcomed the overall addition in funding for housing, while noting that year-on-year increases will be required if the target of 110,000 new affordable homes by 2032 is to be delivered. SFHA added that the pressures now facing the social housing sector, including rising costs and supply chain issues, are affecting its ability to develop.
Aaron Hill, SFHA director of policy and membership, said:
“We are pleased that the Scottish Government has responded positively to our call to increase investment in both new and existing homes. However, with our members facing new long-term pressures, such as rising costs and supply chain issues, we will need to see increased investment year-on-year to respond to these issues.
“Our concern is that, without investment that rises with increasing costs, our members will not be able to play their full part in helping the government to meet its target of delivering 110,000 affordable homes, and decarbonising their existing stock, by 2032. We are keen to work with our members and the Scottish Government to ensure we can deliver the homes Scotland desperately needs.”