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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, March 9, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 09 March 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Community Jobs Scotland, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 [Draft], Biodiversity, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Contents


Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 [Draft]

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-04472, in the name of Derek Mackay, on the draft Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017. I call Derek Mackay to speak to and move the motion. You have up to eight minutes, cabinet secretary.

14:45  

The excitement continues, Presiding Officer.

The purpose of today’s debate on the draft local government finance order is to seek Parliament’s approval of the guaranteed allocations of revenue funding to individual local authorities for 2017-18. We also seek agreement to the allocation of additional funding for 2016-17 that has been identified since the 2016 order was approved at this time last year.

The 2017-18 settlement is a strong settlement for local government, because we recognise that local government is essential to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of every community in Scotland. The Scottish Government is committed to working in partnership with local government, and the total package of funding that will be available in 2017-18 will continue to be focused on delivery of our joint priorities to deliver sustainable economic growth together with protecting front-line services and the most vulnerable people in our society.

In 2017-18, the Scottish Government will provide councils with a total funding package of over £10.4 billion, which includes revenue funding of over £9.6 billion and support for capital expenditure of over £786 million. The order for which we seek Parliament’s approval today deals with distribution and payment of over £9.3 billion out of the revenue total of over £9.6 billion. The remainder will be paid out as specific grant funding or other funding, which will be distributed later, as agreed with local government.

As part of the overall package, we will provide an additional £107 million to support integration of health and social care services, and we will assist local authorities in raising attainment and closing the attainment gap by providing attainment Scotland funding of £170 million. We will maintain the pupil to teacher ratio, and we will remove the council tax freeze and implement council tax reforms. On that, I was pleased to see that all 32 local authorities have set their council tax levels for next year—all councils will increase their levels by no more than 3 per cent. That will provide most councils with increased spending power while providing an element of protection to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

A further £160 million of funding for local government was announced during stage 1 of the Budget (Scotland) Bill, and the revenue funding element of that—£130 million—is included in the order that is being debated today.

The cabinet secretary will know that, in the budget yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced an additional £144 million in Barnett consequentials coming to the Scottish Government for the next financial year. Has the cabinet secretary reflected on how much, if any, of that money might be given to local authorities, particularly given the pressures on some of them to introduce local rates relief schemes for businesses that have been hit by the rates revaluation?

I can confirm that no decision has been made on that. On local rates relief schemes, the £160 million that local authorities are anticipating is certainly to be used at their discretion. I encourage local authorities to think about relevant local rates relief schemes using the resources that they have. I have looked at the 32 local authority budgets and the spending decisions that they have taken; it is interesting to see that many local authorities will have that option, and some are actively considering whether a local rates relief scheme is appropriate for them.

Taking the additional funding along with next year’s settlement, plus the other sources of income that are available to councils through the reforms to council tax and funding for health and social care integration, the overall potential increase in spending power to support local authority services amounted to over £400 million, or 3.9 per cent. As a result of 11 councils not increasing their council tax levels by the maximum allowable 3 per cent, the figure for overall support for services has reduced to £383 million in cash terms, or 3.7 per cent. That represents a very strong and fair settlement, under the circumstances.

For information, I say that, in addition, over £112 million of revenue funding is not covered by the draft order, but will be distributed later. That includes £37.5 million for the teacher induction scheme, £22.5 million for temporary accommodation funding, £42.9 million as the balance of the council tax reduction scheme funding, and £9.4 million as the balance of discretionary housing payments funding.

The 2017 draft order also seeks approval for changes to funding allocations for 2016-17 of over £51.7 million, which were either held back from the 2016 order or have been added in order to fund a number of agreed spending commitments that have subsequently arisen. Those include £37.5 million to fund the teacher induction scheme, £5 million to support the one plus two languages policy, £2.4 million to support the council tax reform changes, and £1.7 million to provide additional financial support to flooded communities.

Although it is not part of today’s order, the settlement for local government includes £756.5 million to fulfil our commitment to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities that we would maintain local government’s share of the Scottish Government’s capital budget at 26 per cent. That was before the extra £30 million that I announced at stage 1 of the budget bill, which is additional to that and brings the total capital to £786.5 million.

A fair and competitive business rates regime is critical to our economy. The early range of measures that I announced in the draft budget included cutting the poundage by 3.7 per cent, taking 8,000 businesses out of the large business supplement, raising the small business bonus threshold, and an overall tax cut that will be worth £155 million next year. Further measures were announced that will take the total amount of reliefs that will be available in 2017-18 to £660 million. That includes the additional support for key sectors: hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes; renewables nationwide; and businesses with offices in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

It is, of course, up to councils to decide how best to deploy the additional funding that I have announced for local government, along with all the other resources that are at their disposal, but the measures that I have taken have freed councils to use their powers under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 to introduce local rates relief schemes to address local issues.

In summary, the total funding from the Scottish Government to local government for next year amounts to over £10.4 billion. The funding proposals deliver for local government a fair financial settlement that will be strengthened by joint working to improve outcomes for people, with the key commitments to improve educational attainment and ensure that health and social care integration is being provided for.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 [draft] be approved.

14:52  

I draw Parliament’s attention to the report that was published this week by Audit Scotland. In particular, I point to where the report talks about future funding. It says:

“If approved, the 2017/18 settlement means that total revenue funding will decrease by 9.2 per cent from £10.5 billion in 2010/11 to £9.5 billion in 2017/18.”

The report goes on to say that

“The Fraser of Allander Institute predicts a total reduction of £1 billion to local government revenue funding between 2016/17 and 2020/21.”

My key point for the Government is that it needs to get its head out of the sand and recognise the massive challenges that local public services face throughout Scotland.

Does Alex Rowley recognise that that reduction is less than the reduction in the Scottish Government’s overall budget?

I have been clear for the past number of years that failed Tory austerity is having a real and detrimental impact on public services throughout Scotland. I am absolutely clear about that. However, I am equally clear that this Parliament was not set up to be simply a conveyor belt for failed Tory austerity. We need to stand up for Scotland and for public services, and we must invest in public services. The deal that has been done between the Greens and the SNP will result in £170 million less going into local government budgets.

Yesterday, I spoke to a councillor who is retiring. I record our thanks to all the councillors, from all parties and none, who will stand down in May. The councillor asked me why anybody would want to be a councillor in the current climate. I asked him what he meant by that and he said that all that they seem to do, year in and year out, is decide what services to cut. That is the reality of local government at this time.

While Derek Mackay talks about £9.6 billion, we must remember what that means for real people in terms of cuts to services. It means that, up and down Scotland, tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists trying to get an assessment for a care package. There are people who have had an assessment and are told that they need a care package but are unable to get it. It means that people are trapped in hospitals and cannot get out because the local authorities do not have the money to put in place their care packages.

I pick up on what the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said yesterday regarding Philip Hammond’s budget and its consequentials for Scotland. I highlight to Mr Mackay the case that COSLA is making for part of those consequentials to be passed on to local government to spend on health and social care, in which there is a clear need for further investment, and to spend on education—the classroom and teaching assistants.

Mr Mackay mentioned the council tax. I make an appeal to him today. A few months ago, in a debate that was similar to this, Mr Mackay said that he was willing to get round the table with other parties to consider an alternative to the council tax. In 2007, the First Minister said that the council tax is unfair and that no amount of tinkering around with it can make it fair. I agreed with her then and I agree with her today. That is why we need to get together, work together and get a replacement for the council tax.

Will Derek Mackay consider bringing all the parties back together again, given that we previously took part in his commission and believed that that would lead to the unfair council tax being removed? We would need to agree a deal with the starting point that we are going to get rid of the council tax, and we would need to set a timetable for that. The Government should be willing to get round the table with other parties. The council tax is unfair; it cannot be allowed to continue because it is regressive. It must go. Let us work together to get rid of the council tax.

There are jobs in local government—but 27,000 jobs have gone in local government over the past 10 years. We need to be able to address that and to invest.

Could Alex Rowley explain something for me? Labour members complain in here about the settlement for local authorities. However Tory-Labour controlled Stirling Council just agreed a budget with £3.5 million of policy growth within it while freezing the council tax. Does that not clearly demonstrate the reality, which is that although it is quite a good settlement for local government on the ground, all that Labour members do in Parliament is continually complain about it? If they could stop complaining about it, we might be able to have a serious discussion about the future.

The council tax is regressive and it is unfair. Some local authorities have taken the decision that it would be unfair to impose an increase on residents of their areas. We need to get rid of the council tax. That is why I am saying to Derek Mackay today, “Let’s work together.” The council tax is unfair. It cannot continue. Let us work together to get an alternative.

As I was saying, 27,000 jobs have gone from local government since 2010, so we need to invest. Those jobs being gone has a knock-on impact on local economies. We need to work with local government to drive local economies and to drive the regional economies of Scotland, and we must invest in skills, apprenticeships and jobs. If we are going to grow the tax take—which we will need to do in the future—our partners in driving the economy of Scotland are local government. Let us invest in local government. Let us work together.

I move amendment S5M-04472.1, to insert at end:

“but, in so doing, regrets that the Scottish Government has chosen to cut funding for local services; notes the concerns of the Chair of the Accounts Commission who highlights the use of reserves by councils to balance the books, along with increased charges and reducing employee numbers in order to make savings, stating that ‘these are neither sufficient not sustainable solutions for the scale of the challenge facing councils’.”

14:59  

It would be remiss of me to start without congratulating the finance secretary on his new look. I am not sure whether it is modelled on Clark Kent or on Geoffrey Howe circa 1981, but if it is designed to improve his focus on the figures under his command, that is something that we should all welcome.

I have some sympathy for the points made by Alex Rowley in his amendment, but I do not think that it would be responsible to vote against the local government finance order today after most, if not all, local councils have set their budgets for next year.

That should not in any way be taken as our endorsement of the Government’s deal for local authorities, which once again have been treated as the kicking boys in the SNP’s budget process.

As Alex Rowley pointed out, this week’s report from the Accounts Commission puts all that into context. According to the commission’s deputy chair, Ronnie Hinds, councils are operating in an “increasingly demanding environment”, with councillors after May facing

“major challenges from continued reductions in their funding from the Scottish Government, and greater demands for services from an ageing population and, in parts of the country, a growing school population.”

Councils are being asked to do more and more at the same time as their budgets are being squeezed. The combination of an ageing population and a greater priority needing to be given to schools increases the cost burden on councils. All that is happening at a time when, according to the Accounts Commission, the Government has slashed council budgets by nearly 10 per cent since 2010-11.

A continual mantra from the Scottish Government is that it has been fair in its settlement to local authorities despite Westminster cuts. However, the true situation has been laid bare in reports such as this week’s from the Accounts Commission and previous publications by the Fraser of Allander institute. We know, for example, that the total managed expenditure available to the Scottish Government will be at its highest-ever level in real terms in the coming financial year, even before the Barnett consequentials that were announced in yesterday’s budget.

According to the Fraser of Allander institute, before yesterday’s Barnett consequentials were added, the amount of money available to the Scottish Government for discretionary spend, which is the Government’s preferred measure, was roughly the same in real terms as it was when the SNP came to power in 2007. Let us take as a baseline 2010-11, as the SNP prefers to do because that was previously the highest historic year. The Fraser of Allander institute says that the discretionary element has fallen since that date by just 3.8 per cent in real terms. That is nowhere near the figure of 9.2 per cent that SNP ministers routinely claim. In a contest for truth between the Scottish Government and the widely respected and independent Fraser of Allander institute, I know which I would believe first.

The Scottish Government’s discretionary spend is down by 3.8 per cent at worst in real terms but, in the same period, it has cut council budgets by nearly 10 per cent. How can that possibly be a fair settlement?

There are now 11 local authorities that have chosen not to increase council tax by up to 3 per cent, which is the equivalent of £383 million that councils could have but are choosing not to take for public services. Is the settlement fair? It is if councils are choosing not to use that additional income.

Bruce Crawford referred to Stirling Council. I applaud the excellent work that has been done by Conservatives in administration in local government to keep council tax bills down. They have had to make some pretty hard choices and drive through efficiencies, which have been good. Nevertheless, we must also factor in the fact that council tax bills for many people are going up due not to action taken by councils but to legislation that the SNP forced through the Parliament with the support of the Labour Party and, if I remember rightly, the Green Party.

Council tax for some people is going up by 24 per cent, which many people on lower incomes will struggle to pay. The irony is that those taxpayers who face substantial hikes in council tax will get poorer services in return, thanks to the SNP Government’s approach. As the Accounts Commission put it this week:

“Paying more for potentially fewer or reduced services will be a difficult argument to sustain”.

It is hard to put the matter any more clearly than that.

Yesterday, the chancellor announced some £350 million extra for the Scottish Government over the next four years. At least some of that cash should go to councils to alleviate the pressures on them. If they followed the lead from south of the border, that would allow them to fund local relief schemes for businesses hit by rates revaluation.

The local government finance settlement penalises local authorities and means that local residents will pay much more in taxes but get poorer services in return. The only consolation is that, eight weeks from today, the council tax payers of Scotland will have the opportunity to cast their verdict on the performance of the SNP Government and the way that it treats local government. I, for one, look forward to hearing their voice.

15:04  

We have to accept that, in general, times are tight and none of us can do as much as we would like. However, I welcome the Audit Scotland report that showed that the change to council funding since 2010-11 is approximately the same as the reduction in the total Scottish Government budget—that is, around 8 per cent.

I want to make some specific points. First, if anyone wants more money for local government, they must say where it would come from. Broadly speaking, that will mean either cutting money from somewhere else or raising more in taxation. I find it fascinating that Opposition parties are not daring to talk about cutting money from elsewhere. They bleat on about wanting more money for local government, but the obvious answer would be to cut the budget for health, universities or something else. Do they have the guts to say that? No, they do not. Instead, they try to be all things to all people and to say how much they support more spending on councils. They refuse to take the responsible position, which is that more money for one sector means less elsewhere.

Mr Mason is being a bit unfair; we were absolutely clear when we put forward our proposal to put up the top rate of tax to 50p, which would bring in between £70 million and £120 million in extra funds. We have been clear about how we would pay for extra funding for our schools.

I will come on to taxation in a minute, but for now I will carry on with the spending alternatives.

I find it strange that Opposition parties all seem to agree that the way in which the Scottish Government has split up the cake is correct—they argue for a bigger cake, but they never argue that the slice for any one sector is too big.

The other option is to raise more in taxation, as Mr Rowley helpfully said. That is where the Tories are the most hypocritical, because they ask for more spending but run scared of taxation. Other parties—this is Mr Rowley’s position—want to raise the tax on those on £11,500 and I do not accept that that can be fair. They also want to take the risk of a 5p jump in the top rate—a 5p differential from the rest of the United Kingdom—which runs the risk of raising even less revenue if people then leave Scotland. I accept that it is a balancing act, but I think that the Government has come to a reasonable position, with increases to council tax and some differentiation from the UK on income tax.

My second point is on the question of allocating resources between councils. Need is the key factor in allocating resources and not everyone will be satisfied. When we look at the per head allocations, the three island authorities are at the top—and it is fairly obvious that they have a lot of extra costs. In fourth place is Argyll and Bute Council, which also has a huge number of islands, so the same logic applies. The next three councils are West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and Glasgow, which is fair—most people’s gut feeling would be that such councils need the most finance in areas such as health and for poverty and other challenges.

As a Glasgow MSP, I can accept that. I know that some Opposition members take the line of fighting only for their own patch and forgetting the rest of Scotland, but that is not a responsible approach to take. We all have a responsibility to our local area and to the whole nation. There are difficult subjects, such as the tourists Edinburgh has to cope with and the Clyde tunnel, which is a challenge for Glasgow, but we have to make decisions and it is up to national Government and local government to negotiate such things.

My final point is that councils must decentralise. There have been claims from the Labour Party that the Scottish Government needs to decentralise, yet the Labour-run Glasgow City Council has been one of the most centralised organisations that I have known. The SNP is promising £1 million per ward in Glasgow for local decision making if we win the election in May.

15:08  

I declare an interest as a councillor on Aberdeen City Council.

We hear from SNP ministers that the funding settlement for Scottish councils is fair. I want to make it abundantly clear to the Scottish Government that nobody in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire is buying the SNP rhetoric—they see through it.

Despite Aberdeen having contributed so much to the wider economy, Aberdeen City Council has yet again been left at the bottom of the pile for local government funding. No offence to my colleagues who cover Mid Scotland and Fife, but Clackmannanshire gets more funding per head than does Aberdeen, and the people of Aberdeen do not believe that that is fair. To add insult to injury, Aberdeen City Council received one of the biggest cuts of any local authority in Scotland on top of being the lowest funded council—it will not even receive the promised 85 per cent of the national average for the year ahead.

Despite all the empty rhetoric from the cabinet secretary about fairness towards local authorities, when we cut through the SNP spin and look at the figures, we see that the Scottish Government has quite simply hammered the north-east of Scotland.

I understand what the member is saying, and he is quite right to say it. He is criticising the order, which will be terrible for the north-east. Given that he has been sent here by the people of the north-east, should he not use his vote to vote down the order and ask the Government to lay another one?

We have been very vocal on behalf of the north-east, but my colleague Murdo Fraser articulated why, at this stage, the Scottish Conservatives will not do what the member suggests.

Angus Council is getting a 2.8 per cent cut, Aberdeenshire Council is getting a 2.9 per cent cut and Aberdeen City Council is getting a 4.6 per cent cut. In fact, Aberdeen City Council is being squeezed almost twice as much as the average council in the country.

Will Mr Thomson take an intervention?

No, I would like to make some progress.

If the cabinet secretary is on top of his figures, he will know that Aberdeen City Council is in the quite unique position of getting two thirds of its income from business rates. Therefore, it was even more unfair of the SNP Government to attempt to dress up extra funding for all Scottish councils as income that could be used to mitigate business rates rises. I can assure the chamber that that fooled no one in the north-east business community. Aside from the fact that every council in Scotland received a top-up, with only Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire being expected to spend the income on rates relief, Mr Mackay and the SNP declined to mention the fact that the overall budgets for all local authorities were still being cut.

Will the member take an intervention?

No, thank you.

A smaller cut is still a cut, and Mr Mackay would be well served to follow my colleague Murdo Fraser’s suggestion that the additional funding from the UK Government could be used to support local relief schemes.

The SNP’s council tax increases leave thousands of local people facing increases in their council tax bills of anywhere between £113, for those with band E properties, and £600, for those with band H properties. Across Aberdeen, more than 30,000 properties will be affected, and more than 45,000 will be affected in Aberdeenshire. Those figures illustrate the extent to which the SNP’s council tax grab disproportionately hits north-east families and households. Many of those same families will also miss out on a UK Government income tax cut that the SNP has refused to pass on. That is putting a significant burden on household budgets across the region. What those families are getting is an SNP double whammy of paying more but getting less.

Given all of that, it is brave of SNP members to travel to Aberdeen for their party conference next week. When they are on stage, perhaps Mr Mackay and all of the central belt-biased SNP Government will have the humility to finally admit that Aberdeen is the SNP’s forgotten city and that the SNP has let down the people of the north-east of Scotland.

15:12  

It is clear from the recent Accounts Commission report that councils are doing what they can to keep their heads above water and deliver the vital services that our communities rely on. However, the SNP Government is not helping them. It has slashed the funds of councils across Scotland by hundreds of millions of pounds in the past year alone. It is clear that it is responsible for the cuts to our councils and for the inequality, unemployment and loss of service that come as a result of them. It cannot keep passing the buck to councils.

Overall, since 2011, the SNP has cut council revenue budgets by £1.5 billion. At what point will the Government stop cutting and start investing in our communities? Councils have shaved their services to the bone and there are no more efficiencies to be found. In the past five years alone, 15,000 people have been made redundant as a result of Scottish Government cuts. That is not just a number—we are talking about people’s lives and the loss of their families’ futures and their local services.

Frequently, we hear about task forces being set up to help workers. When private companies pull out of communities and several hundred jobs are lost, the Scottish Government sends in partnership action for continuing employment. There is a Scottish energy task force to deal with employment and skills losses in the energy sector, and a Scottish steel task force was set up to protect jobs at the Dalzell and Clydebridge works. They have been welcome, but there has been no task force to deal with the thousands of job losses that have occurred across local government, which can sometimes be the biggest employer in our communities.

I say in response to John Mason that it is clear that the Government wants to drain councils of power and funds and to centralise functions, yet councils are best placed to identify the problems in their communities and to work in partnership with stakeholders and trade unions to find solutions. However, cuts on top of cuts mean that they are being forced to reduce services and increase charges, which impacts disproportionately on the most vulnerable.

In eight council areas in Scotland, the number of over-75s is set to double by 2039. That means that council services will cost more than they ever have before.

The Government is also letting young people down, because it is passing cuts on to the next generation. Last year, the number of Scottish children living in temporary accommodation increased by 17 per cent. Children are missing out on books and places to study because libraries are closing and staff numbers are down by a third since 2010. Support staff are being cut from our schools, which is leaving thousands of children who have additional needs without the help that they need. That is all the direct result of short-sighted Scottish Government cuts.

Council services are vital. They support the most vulnerable in society, save lives and benefit all of us, and they need to be properly funded.

Elaine Smith is halfway through her speech and has said nothing yet about the Tory Government in London, which has cut Scotland’s budget by £2.9 billion.

Interestingly, I am just about to get to the Tory Government in London, if Joan McAlpine cares to listen.

Sadly, between the Tories at Westminster and the SNP at Holyrood, there is not much chance of councils being properly funded over the next few years. However, Scottish Labour takes seriously the challenges that our society faces, and we believe that the richest should pay a bit more to stop the destructive cuts to our essential local services. That is a sensible and progressive approach to stopping austerity.

The regressive council tax should be replaced, as the SNP promised it would be years ago; it should not be tweaked, as the SNP is doing now. A local government finance package that decreases employment, depletes services and defunds the young is unacceptable.

We now have one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world. Two decades after the Parliament was established and 10 years since the SNP came to power, we should use the Parliament’s powers to end austerity, support our children and communities, and deliver a fairer and more equal society for all.

15:16  

This is an important debate because, with our decision on the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017, it provides the funding for a wide range of vital public services, from services to educate Scotland’s young people to environmental health, social care, leisure and recreation, transport and housing services and the very system of local democracy itself.

Scottish Green politics is founded on fundamental principles, one of which is radical democracy. We are a party that is committed to deepening and strengthening local democracy.

The finance settlement is a substantial improvement on the draft local government settlement—in fact, it is £160 million better—and communities throughout Scotland will welcome the additional resource, which has already mitigated the effect of many planned cuts in local services.

The settlement that we will vote on represents a change from the draft budget of December, with its 1.6 per cent cut in real terms, to a final settlement with a 0.1 per cent cut in real terms. That is evidenced by the Scottish Parliament information centre’s analysis of 6 February 2017. It is important that, if we add that change to the council tax multiplier, which provides an additional £111 million of funding to local government, we are now looking at a 0.7 per cent real-terms increase in funding for local government from the budget for 2016 to the budget for 2017.

I accept that, as others have mentioned, local government still faces massive challenges, many of which the Accounts Commission identified earlier this week. I also accept that other parties interpret the numbers in a variety of ways; indeed, that is part of the problem with the whole budget process. In its report on the draft budget, the Local Government and Communities Committee identified the lack of transparency as an issue.

It is important not only to have more transparent reporting; we believe that we need a completely new approach to local government finance. We have already debated the question of a local tax, and we got nowhere. The regressive council tax remains, but I sincerely hope that, now that the budget is agreed, we can have the further discussions on reform during this parliamentary session that Alex Rowley talked about.

More fundamental reform is still needed. I do not feel comfortable sitting in the Parliament and voting on how much money local government should receive. Together with council tax freezes and now rate capping, the growing centralisation of local government finance has undermined local democracy for too long. Only 12 per cent of the funding of Scotland’s local authorities is under their fiscal control, and even that meagre autonomy is compromised by the Tory-style rate capping that has been imposed not by statute but by the Scottish Government holding councils to ransom by punishing them if they set council tax rates that do not meet its preferences.

In his opening remarks, the cabinet secretary talked about a 3 per cent council tax rise being “allowable”. He knows that he has no statutory authority to impose that limit, which is precisely why it is not included in the order.

That is why we will tomorrow publish a paper that proposes a fiscal framework for local government. Just as we now have a set of rules to govern the financial relationship between the UK and Scotland, which provides a degree of clarity, certainty, transparency and predictability to the financial arrangements between the two, so a similar framework should be put in place to govern the process by which local government finance is agreed.

The draft finance order forms part of the budget deal that was agreed between the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Government. Notwithstanding our concerns about how the finance settlement is reached and, in particular, about the constraints that are placed on councils’ fiscal autonomy, we will vote for the motion. The vote is about providing the resources that will deliver vital services to people across Scotland.

15:20  

Seventeen years ago, I voted against the very first local government finance order that was presented to the Parliament. The order was presented by the coalition Government of the day, which I supported. However, I did not support that order because, per head of population, Aberdeenshire Council was clearly underfunded and at the end of the queue.

I happen to be a Liberal Democrat, but I was first and foremost elected to represent my constituents. I say to the Conservatives in particular—and particularly those from the north-east—that that means that I was prepared to use my vote against my party’s Government when I needed to. That vote against the Government resulted in ministers accepting the need for change and for improved funding for the north-east in future finance orders, which were brought back.

Things have changed since those early days of the Parliament, and not to the good. How many times have back-bench SNP members voted against their Government when their constituents have been harshly affected by that Government’s actions?

It has never happened.

Well, there you go—how pathetic that is. That is my point. [Interruption.] It is worth listening, I think.

There are occasions when it is really important for members to put party interests to one side and vote in the interests of the people they represent. Today is one of those occasions.

Will the member take an intervention?

I have only four minutes; I will take an intervention if I have time.

The order that is before us is a fraud. It purports to show that the Government has kept its word and that no council will receive less than 85 per cent of the average of council funding, but independent research from the Scottish Parliament information centre shows that, by the Government’s figures, Aberdeen City Council is being short changed by some £3.6 million by the order. The Scottish Government has fiddled the figures by taking the average not of the 32 Scottish councils but of only 28. The finance minister knows that.

Will the member take an intervention?

I will if I have time, but I am only halfway through. The Presiding Officer is nodding his head, so I am happy to give way.

It is not the case that Aberdeen has not had its fair share. I have a wider question for Mike Rumbles. The issue is not about party politics—for us to change the formula would mean changing the partnership arrangements with local government through COSLA. Is Mike Rumbles suggesting that I should not engage in that on-going partnership arrangement with COSLA and that I should arrive at a different decision about how we distribute local government finance?

I have heard the same argument repeatedly from different finance ministers over the past 17 or 18 years—John Swinney was the master of it. It is entirely up to the finance minister to decide which funding formula particularly works.

I could have said that the Scottish Government is even worse with its own figures. I could have said that it previously promised that no council would receive less than 85 per cent of the average funding support from the Scottish Government. However, the Scottish Government has changed its promise. It now promises that no council will have less than 85 per cent of the spending power of the average council—that is the council’s own revenues plus Government support. As I have shown, even after changing its promise, the Scottish Government cannot achieve the 85 per cent average without fiddling the figures.

There is no doubt that the people of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are being short changed by the Scottish Government. Ross Thomson is holding his head in his hands and I can see why.

It is because I am listening to you.

That was rather rude, but there we are.

Not only have nearly half the homes across the north-east—[Interruption.] This is a serious issue, as Mr Thomson said. Ross, if I am using your words, it cannot be that bad, can it?

Council tax for nearly half the homes in the north-east has risen by up to 25 per cent, for no increase in council services. Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council are once again at the end of the queue. Any north-east MSP can see that our region is being short changed. I do not understand why the five north-east Conservative MSPs are not going to vote against the order, and I do not understand where the three who are not in the chamber are—they are not even here for the debate. [Interruption.] I am the only Liberal Democrat from the north-east—[Interruption.]

I ask members to speak through the chair, please.

There are five Conservative MSPs from the north-east—where are they? Any north-east MSP who was worth their salt would see that it is time to put party loyalties aside. That is what we should all do. It is what we have done, and it is what Conservative and SNP members should do.

As I said, 17 years ago, I voted against my own Government’s finance order, because it was wrong. The order that we are considering today is wrong. We need all north-east MSPs to stand up for the people whom we represent and vote the order down. This has been a bad call, particularly from the Conservative finance spokesman.

15:26  

I am happy to speak in support of the draft Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017.

I am in no doubt about the crucial role that local government plays in the health, wellbeing and prosperity of every community and constituency in Scotland. The settlement that we are considering ensures that there is a strong and fair deal for local authorities. In the face of drastic cuts to our budget from the Tories at Westminster, the Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly.

That is not just the opinion on the SNP benches; it is shared by the Accounts Commission. As we heard, a report from the commission last year showed that the reduction in real-terms funding of councils since 2010-11 is the same as the reduction in the Scottish Government’s total budget over the same period. The commission said:

“Taking into account 2016/17 funding, councils have experienced a real-terms reduction in funding of 8.4 per cent since 2010/11. This is approximately the same as the reduction in the Scottish Government’s total budget over the same period.”

Will the member take an intervention?

Not at the moment.

Furthermore, the reductions that there have been here are nothing like the cuts that local authorities face in England, which amount to a 40 per cent real-terms reduction, according to the Local Government Association, and leave local authorities in England in a serious funding crisis, with many crucial services suffering.

We are often criticised from the Opposition benches for comparing the work of this Scottish Government with that of its Tory counterpart in London, but while we in Scotland remain at the mercy of the cuts and policies of a Tory Westminster Government for which we did not vote, I make no apology for drawing attention to the stark contrasts and to the hypocrisy of certain members of this Parliament, and I make no apology for commending the Scottish Government for the job of mitigation that it so often finds itself forced to do in response to decisions that have been made in London.

The Scottish Government must also be commended for its commitment to listening and compromise during the budget negotiations. Such an approach is in contrast to the gung-ho approach of the Tories at Westminster. As a result, not only will additional attainment funding come from the national budget and not from local taxation, local authorities will receive £120 million—£20 million more than was previously committed—to support schools across the country to close the attainment gap. In addition, an extra £160 million has been pledged to local government as a result of compromise and negotiation.

The extra money, together with other sources of support that are available through actual and potential increases in council tax income, and through health and social care integration, amounts to an overall increase of more than £400 million. As we heard, the real-terms increase in available support for local government in 2017-18 is therefore considerably more favourable when it is compared with the real-terms increase in the overall Scottish budget. The contrast with the fate of councils in England, which are at the mercy of a right-wing, austerity-driven Tory Government, could not be clearer.

It is clear that this is a strong, fair and balanced settlement for local government, which has been reached through compromise and negotiation, and which ensures that our local authorities are supported to deliver the crucial services on which we all rely.

I will finish by quoting a councillor in North Ayrshire Council, who said:

“Delivering better outcomes in partnership with our communities, reducing poverty and building a better future for our young people is at the very heart of what we are trying to do here in North Ayrshire. We have managed to deliver a budget which not only achieves that balance but also helps those most in need while protecting both frontline services and jobs ... Indeed, there will be additional jobs as a result of our Budget.”

Those are the words not of one of my SNP colleagues but of Labour leader Joe Cullinane. It sounds like a fair settlement to me.

15:29  

When discussing local government finance, we need to keep in mind that we are considering more than just entries on Derek Mackay’s ledger. Real people are affected at the end of every decision that he and his Government make.

East Ayrshire Council is having to deal with a 3.5 per cent cut in its funding, which equates to £1.6 million. Although the council has been forced into a 3 per cent hike in council tax, that does not even come close to filling in the gap, so the council will have no option but to pass the cuts down the line.

One of the most important activities that councils undertake, and one of the least talked about, is their support for charities, community groups and other third sector organisations in their area. Whenever we talk about front-line services supported by councils, we would do well to include third sector organisations in that group. My concern is that, given that the third sector is very often the most cost effective way to deliver essential support services directly to local communities, and that third sector organisations can target community needs in ways that are impossible for central Government, what will be the fallout when services are cut for those receiving that lifeline? What happens to the service users at Addaction in Kilmarnock, which is a drop-in centre for recovering addicts, or Morven day services, which is a mental health drop-in centre, or to the players at powerchair football or to the Ace RaceRunning Club, or to WG13, which gives our young people another chance for learning? They are all reliant on life-changing services that are delivered by the third sector and volunteers.

What will happen? Increased physical and mental issues will result in medical interventions and accident and emergency admissions. Some will end up in the judicial system or welfare system. Those are not my words; they come directly from the service users themselves.

Given the problems that East Ayrshire seems to be facing, does the member agree with his colleague that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire should get a larger percentage of the money?

I know that the Scottish Government is always keen to have a constructive debate in the chamber even if the SNP dictionary’s definition of “constructive debate” reads as “fawning agreement regardless of logical flaws; spineless acceptance of assertions regardless of factual accuracy; or comment on dogma-driven strategy regardless of expected outcomes; see also Scottish Greens.”

What I will say to the member is that there was a third option. With a capped payment on i6 and NHS 24, he had an overspend of £250 million, which could have meant a resolution.

What was the answer?

Shush.

Mr Mackay may wipe those service users off the council’s ledger, but they will reappear on another page in the public ledger. However, the real cost is far more personal.

Will the member take an intervention?

I have had enough.

It is not just third sector organisations where cuts to local authority budgets will lead to greater pressures on other budgets. Last week, the BBC revealed the outcome of research that I undertook into where the food in our schools comes from. That revealed a number of examples of food being imported when it could have been grown locally. I have no doubt that the decisions that led local authorities to buy chicken from Thailand and frozen mashed potato from France were driven in no small part by budget limitations.

In much the same way, Aberdeen City Council warned last week that, if budgets are not increased, it might have to cut the amount of fruit and vegetables in school meals. That is a Scottish local authority openly stating that it might be left with no option but to offer school pupils meals with less fruit and fewer vegetables.

Derek Mackay needs to and should know that, rather than addressing the very issues he and his Government allegedly hold most important—the growing health inequality gap, the growing attainment gap, care of the elderly and infirm; in other words, the most vulnerable in our society—it is those self-same people who will ultimately suffer the most. I say to Mr Mackay that numbers and statistics are people. Where is the social justice that he keeps talking about? The SNP Government might talk about the importance of social justice but, with its actions, it shows us how little it understands it.

15:34  

I remind Mr Whittle and his colleagues that the Tories in East Ayrshire voted for the budget in its entirety. If it was that bad, why did they vote for it?

Today’s order gives effect to the budget that has been approved by Parliament and puts vital cash into the hands of Scotland’s councils. Roughly £10 billion is allocated to the councils and an extra £383 million will support local services as a result of the additional allocations that have been made recently on top of other support that has been added to the baseline allocations.

For my authority, East Ayrshire Council—here are the real figures—that means that our initial baseline allocation of £233 million, which in itself is higher than the previous year’s baseline, is enhanced by another £10.5 million when we take into account the further support that is provided. That means that, this year, East Ayrshire Council will have around £242 million, which is 4.9 per cent higher, to deliver all our local services.

That support allows our councils to fund education, health and social care, culture and leisure, roads, recycling and a host of other services. In addition, more than £2 million will come directly to schools in my constituency to help our young folk to raise their attainment in order to at least get on a par with their counterparts elsewhere in Scotland. Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is surely something that we all support, and there is a £750 million investment in that over this parliamentary session. Why on earth would anybody oppose that? Sadly, Tory and Labour MSPs did so by voting against that vital cash coming to schools in Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley and everywhere else in Scotland. However, I bet that they will be first in line to get their photos taken at those schools when we celebrate the achievements of those young people. In fact, pupils from St Joseph’s academy in Kilmarnock were in the Parliament earlier today and I did not hear Mr Whittle explain to them why he voted against that school getting £86,000 extra as a result of the attainment fund. He kept quiet about that.

As the member well knows, when there are school visits, I do not get involved in politics—unlike one of the member’s colleagues, who went completely political and over the top. That is why I did not mention any of that.

That is now on the record and the pupils at St Joseph’s now know that the Tories voted against that £86,000 going to their academy.

As part of the overall settlement, there is substantial support of £250 million to take forward the integration of health and social care and a further £107 million to deliver the living wage for social care workers. That means that those in receipt of war pensions, for example, will not be penalised when they are assessed for social care. As I mentioned, the attainment fund is a significant investment and has already resulted in the appointment of 160 full-time teachers.

We should try to remember that the last time Labour was in power, the council tax shot up by more than 60 per cent in my authority; it was the SNP that froze it for nine years in a row. Such undue rises will not be permitted again, but the councils can, if they choose to, raise an extra £70 million every year by deploying the 3 per cent uplift.

Will the member give way?

I have no time—I need to finish.

That 3 per cent uplift was supported by the Tories in East Ayrshire.

It is interesting to see which authorities have decided to continue the council tax freeze, despite all the shouting and screaming that we have heard in the chamber in the past few years that the council tax freeze must end. It is coincidental, perhaps, but they all appear to be Labour-led councils and they are all heading for an election in a matter of weeks.

The local government settlement is a fair settlement, which brings additional financial resources to support a wide range of local services. According to Audit Scotland, it broadly follows the same pattern of allocation from the UK Government, which I remind members involves a huge cut of nearly £3 billion to Scotland over the 10 years to 2020. That cut was supported by Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster at the time, which goes some way to explaining why 40 of them lost their seats.

Schools, pupils, teachers, social care workers and thousands of council staff across Scotland need this settlement to be agreed by the Parliament so that they can all get on with the good work that they collectively do on Scotland’s behalf. I hope that the Parliament will back the order at 5 pm.

15:39  

I rise to oppose the order in the name of Mr Mackay and support the amendment in the name of my colleague Alex Rowley. It has been a very interesting and important debate, because it has brought out some of the issues in relation to people’s attitude to local government.

We have heard a series of speeches from members on the SNP benches telling us that it is a fair settlement. That is obviously the line that has come out from the SNP command. The reality is that £170 million has been cut from council budgets. In Glasgow alone, I remind Mr Mason, there is a £53 million shortfall. Those are not just figures on a spreadsheet. Those cuts will mean that jobs will be lost, libraries will be closed and care packages will be compromised. People on the ground will have to deal with the impact of those cuts.

Alex Rowley, drawing on his experience as a council leader, and after speaking to one of his colleagues, gave the example of the difficulties that local councillors face year on year in having to deal with budgetary challenges. That is brought out in the Accounts Commission report. We see from that report that there have been cuts of over £1 billion since 2011. The Fraser of Allander institute forecast another £1 billion of cuts coming down the line to 2021. Local government is facing the brunt of those cuts and, as Elaine Smith pointed out, it is through the accumulation of decisions that have been made by the SNP in control of the Scottish Parliament that councils have been penalised.

There was another option, another way of doing it. In contrast to the Tories, Labour proposed tax changes that would have produced extra funding.

Will Mr Kelly give way?

Let me make some progress.

For example, as Alex Rowley pointed out, a tax on top-rate taxpayers would have raised in the region of £100 million, and that would have made a difference to councils on the ground.

There is also an important point about the impact not just on local services but on the local economy.

Mr Kelly mentions that the tax rises would raise £100 million. Mr Rowley said that they would raise between £70 million and £100 million, and their leader at one point said that they might not raise anything at all. The point that they have been disingenuous about—perhaps Mr Kelly can answer this for me—is whether they think that it is fair that those earning £11,500 a year should pay extra taxation to pay for Tory austerity.

That is not true. Those earning £11,500 would not pay any extra.

That comes to the nub of this debate. In my 10 years as an MSP, I have watched SNP minister after SNP minister stand up at various question times and say, “We could do more about the health service, more about local government and more about education if only we had more powers.” Derek Mackay is the finance secretary who has had more power than any finance secretary in the history of devolution. He had tax-raising powers and he had the opportunity to make that difference and to alleviate the cuts that councils will have to make, but he did not do it.

As we move to the council elections that Mr Mason mentioned, the SNP MSPs on the front and back benches will have to account to the electorate and apologise for the cuts that they are passing down the line, which will mean jobs lost and services closed.

That is why we will oppose the order at 5 o’clock tonight.

I call Graham Simpson to wind up for the Conservative Party.

15:43  

How long do I have, Presiding Officer?

Five minutes. We also have some time in hand, because you have all been very disciplined.

I declare an interest as a serving councillor in South Lanarkshire.

Murdo Fraser kicked off for the Conservatives by mentioning the Accounts Commission report. He also made reference to Derek Mackay’s new look, comparing him to Clark Kent. In my eyes, it is more Proclaimers than Superman.

Brian Whittle mentioned cuts in East Ayrshire, and also cuts to school meals. Ross Thomson and Mike Rumbles got into a bit of a personal discussion about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. That is their right, as they both represent that area and feel that it has been hard done by. Elaine Smith rightly talked about demographic pressures and Andy Wightman touched on the issue around lack of transparency and rightly said that the Local Government and Communities Committee, of which we are both members, had referred to that in its annual report.

The background to all this discussion is a local government settlement that, despite the smoke and mirrors used by the finance secretary, sees another year-on-year cut. This week, the Accounts Commission report laid bare a £216 million real-terms cut in revenue grant in one year and 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs lost in local government under the SNP since 2011.

Why should anyone listen to what the Conservative Party says on the issue, given that despite its so-called “strong opposition” it refuses to vote down the order? Is that a strong Opposition?

We have had the debate about the budget, and the budget has gone through. If we vote down the order, local government will not get any money. Our position is very clear: we are not happy with the amount that local government is getting. However, if we vote down the order, local government will not get the money—that is the logic of the position that Mike Rumbles suggests.

If the local government settlement was as rosy as Derek Mackay would have us believe, not a single council in Scotland would be making cuts—that is the logic of Derek Mackay’s position. In fact, the reverse of that is true, because all councils are making cuts. Maybe they cannot add up properly, or maybe Mr Mackay’s sums are out—I will go for the latter.

Will the member take an intervention?

No, thank you.

Cuts lead, of course, to poorer services. The Accounts Commission noted, for example, that our streets are getting dirtier, which is one effect of making local government a Cinderella service. However, as we would expect, some councils cope rather better than others with the challenges.

Will the member take an intervention?

No.

I am sure that we would all wish to congratulate Conservative-run South Ayrshire Council on what the Accounts Commission says has been

“considerable progress in delivering improvements and meeting financial challenges as a result of effective political and managerial leadership.”

[Interruption.]

I point out to Mr Mackay that that is a direct quote. All councils could learn from the example of South Ayrshire Council.

Will the member take an intervention?

On South Ayrshire Council?

On any council the member likes. [Laughter.]

I am curious about the front-bench Conservatives’ position. If we are picking off individual councils, I can pick off the figures for each of them and talk about the increase in spending power. However, I am curious about the Conservatives’ official position. Does Graham Simpson believe that, in the fashion that Ross Thomson suggested, money should be taken away from the central belt and given to Aberdeen?

Just say yes.

No. I am not here to pick off individual councils; I am here to talk about the overall settlement, which is a rum deal for local government.

We have had a United Kingdom budget this week that sees an extra £350 million coming to Scotland. Perhaps the cabinet secretary can tell me whether any of that money will come to local government, as Murdo Mackay has suggested. [Laughter.] I am sorry; I keep getting them mixed up.

Will any of that money come to local government? The cabinet secretary has the opportunity to say yes.

I appreciate that Graham Simpson may now be looking for our assistance to help him fill the extra time that he was given for his speech. However, when did the Conservatives have their conversion to seeking extra support for local government? Given that it was in the public domain that the Conservative asks were, in essence, all about tax cuts for the richest in society, at what point did they decide that what they really wanted from the budget was more money for local government? That was not an ask in any of the discussions that the Conservatives had with me.

Will you conclude your remarks, Mr Simpson?

I will. The member did not answer the point that I gave him an opportunity to answer. We can assume that no extra money will be coming.

We will not vote against the order. That would be irresponsible. Local government needs the extra money and it needs to have a settlement. However, we will back the amendment, because we agree with every word of it.

15:50  

The importance of this debate should not be underestimated. The draft Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017 seeks parliamentary approval for the guaranteed payment of almost £9.3 billion in revenue support to Scotland’s 32 local authorities to enable them to provide the people of Scotland with the services that they need and deserve.

We can argue for as long as we want about interpretation of the numbers, but the fact is that, as can be seen in the table that has been provided for members at the back of the chamber, an extra £383 million will be available to support local services in 2017-18, which represents an increase of 3.7 per cent compared with this year.

Following yesterday’s budget statement, there will be £350 million of consequentials, of which £190 million will be revenue. COSLA is asking for that money to go to health and social care and education. Will the Minister for Local Government and Housing put pressure on the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution to get some of that money into those areas?

We have taken action on social care and education. We have created integration joint boards to pull budgets together and provide the best possible services for people. We also have the £120 million attainment fund, which many of the Opposition parties in this Parliament tried to vote down.

There will be a huge list of folk asking Mr Mackay what he is going to do with the consequentials. They sound like manna from heaven, but they will not make up for the £2.9 billion cut that Westminster has imposed on this place. I wish that there had been more talk of that today, rather than some of the spurious things that have been talked about, because the simple reality is that the cuts that have been passed down from Westminster are having a major effect on people’s lives here in Scotland.

Will the minister give way?

I will give way to the member in a moment.

The local government finance order that we are discussing today seeks agreement to the main allocation of revenue funding to local government for 2017-18 and updated funding allocations for 2016-17. The total funding for 2017-18 amounts to over £10.4 billion. That includes revenue funding of £9.6 billion, of which we will distribute over £9.3 billion under the order.

The overall 2017-18 settlement funding package will provide an additional £107 million to support the integration of health and social care services; assist local authorities in raising attainment and closing the attainment gap by providing attainment Scotland funding of £170 million; maintain the pupil teacher ratio; remove the council tax freeze; and implement council tax reforms. The Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.

Given that, according to the Fraser of Allander institute, the Scottish Government’s discretionary spend is down by 3.8 per cent in real terms since 2010-11, why has the Scottish Government cut the funding to local government in the same period by nearly 10 per cent? How can that possibly be fair?

I would dispute some of the figures that Mr Fraser has given—

They are from the Fraser of Allander institute.

We have a situation where £2.9 billion-worth of cuts have been passed on from your Government. If you were doing your job properly, you would be lobbying the chancellor—

Please speak through the chair, Mr Stewart.

—for much more than the wee bit of consequentials that we are getting out of the budget. That does not compensate for the cuts that have been made to this place. The member should start standing up for his constituents here in Scotland.

The local government finance settlement, including the extra £160 million announced on 2 February, plus the other sources of support that are available through the actual and potential increases in council tax income, and the support through health and social care integration, would have amounted to a potential overall increase of more than £400 million, which is 3.9 per cent in cash terms, or £249.7 million, which is 2.4 per cent in real terms.

Local authorities have now finalised their budgets, with the exception of Clackmannanshire, which set its council tax but not its budget, which should include provision for each of the elements included in the package. As a result of 11 councils choosing not to increase their council tax levels by the maximum allowable 3 per cent, overall support for services has reduced to £383 million, or 3.7 per cent in cash terms.

The figures for 2017-18 that are presented for approval today include two significant additions from the provisional distributed figures that were issued on 15 December: £130 million of revenue, which the cabinet secretary announced during stage 1 of the Budget (Scotland) Bill, and an extra £10 million in respect of the discretionary housing payments, which increases the total support that will be available next year to £52.9 million and will mitigate some of the worst excesses of Tory welfare reforms.

In addition to the 2017-18 allocations, today’s order seeks approval for an extra £51.7 million for 2016-17. That represents sums either undistributed at the time of the 2016 order or funding that has become available during the year. It includes £37.5 million to fund the teachers’ induction scheme, £5 million to support the one-plus-two languages policy, £2.4 million to support the council tax reform changes and £1.7 million to provide additional financial support to flooded communities.

Minister, please conclude.

I am in my last wee bit, Presiding Officer.

I must respond to Mike Rumbles’s accusation that the Scottish Government is short changing Aberdeen City Council through the application of the 85 per cent funding floor. Mr Rumbles talked about voting against the order—against his own Government—when he first became a member of this Parliament. That shows his impotence on these issues. We have the 85 per cent funding floor only because of the work of the late Brian Adam, a former north-east SNP MSP who lobbied hard to ensure that the floor was put in place. I give thanks to Brian Adam for his efforts in that regard, and no thanks to Mr Rumbles, who was impotent when it came to those issues.

Thank you, minister.

I find it extraordinary that he can criticise the Scottish Government about the 85 per cent floor.

Minister, you need to conclude your remarks.

Since the Scottish Government first introduced the 85 per cent funding floor—

Minister, you are three minutes over time. Please conclude your remarks.

—Aberdeen has benefited by more than £42.2 million because of it.

I encourage the Parliament to support the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2017, to ensure that our local authorities can get on with the delivery of our vital local services without the worry of knowing when and how their funding will be provided by the Scottish Government.