Finance Secretary `open´ to addressing price range considerations…

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Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has said “his door is open” for other parties to discuss the upcoming budget, with the Scottish Greens threatening to vote it down.

Issues including local government taxation, proposals to implement a tourist tax and resolving a dispute over plans to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) have been contested in the lead up to the budget announcement on December 12.

The minority SNP administration needs to secure the backing of at least one other party in the Scottish Parliament if its budget is to be passed.

The Greens have been supportive of the budget in recent years, however the party’s co-convener Patrick Harvie urged the Scottish Government to revisit local government taxation and back a tourist tax in exchange for their votes.

The Scottish Conservatives also suggested they could offer their support for the budget, but only if plans for a second independence referendum are dropped.

Speaking as he announced the Scottish Government’s Economic Action Plan, Mr Mackay said he was open to working with other parties, although would not agree to reducing taxes for some of Scotland’s top earners following the publication of the Tories’ proposals.

He said: “My door is open to any party as a minority government to ensure that the budget gets through.

“I think people would welcome a pragmatic, consensual approach to the budget. Recognising we’re a minority government, I have to find the consensus from the Scottish Parliament.

“I do have to say though that on first reading the first part of the Tories’ proposition, it does appear to be focused on tax cuts for the richest which is not the place that we would go to right now.”

Cutting APD was also included in the Tories’ proposals, something which Mr Mackay said could be resolved if Scottish Conservative MPs applied pressure on the UK Government.

Under current plans, ADP would be replaced by an Air Departure Tax (ADT), though the Scottish Government insists an exemption on the tax must be given to the Highlands and Islands before it is passed over fears it would damage the economy of the region.

Ministers earlier this year put plans to cut air tax on hold, saying exemptions afforded to the Highlands and Islands would need to be assessed by the European Commission, under EU State Aid rules.

Mr Mackay said: “We believe it would have economic benefits if the rate was reduced so it can happen now by the UK government, we’ve made that point, airlines have made that point too.

“There are 13 Tory MPs, Parliamentary arithmetic in Westminster is quite precarious. I think Theresa May is looking for support from wherever she can get it right now so if the Scottish Tories wanted to apply real pressure on her on that, they could fix this issue and then allow us to switch on the tax and do what we want to do with it.”

The Finance Secretary added that although there are currently no plans for introducing a tourist tax, as called for by the Greens, the Scottish Government are willing to engage on the matter.

He said: “I’ll engage with that right up to and beyond the budget.

“I want to get a budget passed – some parties are making their position public and I’ll set out the Scottish budget on 12th of December. I’m open to talks with any party in the Scottish Parliament.”

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