Finance Secretary Derek Mackay agreed to give councils the power to implement the fee as part of his 11th-hour Budget deal with the Greens. Fears have been raised that charges of up to £400 a year will be passed on to staff by employers. While ministers say NHS properties will be exempt, they have faced a huge backlash from business groups and teachers. The AA branded the plan “a poll tax on wheels”. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs in November no consultation had been carried out on such a policy. His predecessor, Humza Yousaf, also previously indicated there should be consultation before such a policy was introduced. The First Minister’s spokesman yesterday said the exemption for NHS staff “could quite possibly” be extended across the public sector, and the Government expected to see a “proper consultation” over the scheme.
But the Scottish Greens said there was nothing about “consultation” in the pact agreed last week, and insisted it would be entirely up to councils how the levy would work.
The Scottish Government has said that it will back a Green amendment to the Transport (Scotland) Bill currently progressing through parliament to give councils power to enforce the levy.
Holyrood’s rural economy and connectivity committee will consider the proposal at stage two of the Bill, but this is usually too late for any consultation or outside evidence to be taken.
Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the SNP had been “truly caught out” in trying to “sneak it through”.
He added: “The latest News that this tax might exempt public sector workers, but still hit low-paid workers in the private sector, is yet more evidence of its unfairness.
“The simple fact is that the SNP has proposed a tax without any consultation or preparation. The SNP is making it up as it goes along, and as each day goes by, it gets harder to defend the Greens’ policy.”
A spokesman for Miss Sturgeon said the Government had agreed “in principle” to back the amendment introducing the new charge, but had not seen the detail of it yet.
He added: “We would want it to be done in proper consultation with everybody and take in account of views. We’re obviously sensitive to what people say about it on both sides.”
The spokesman was unable to say if the exemption would apply to social care workers as well as NHS staff, given their integration.
He said: “It’s a possibility. I’m not ruling anything out at this stage.”
Repeatedly pressed on the issue, and whether the levy had Government support, he said: “Not to simplify it too much, it was either this Budget or no Budget. This was the deal last week we agreed on.”
A spokesman for Mr Mackay tried to distance him further from the plan, claiming the minister had “no choice but to agree to work with the Greens” after other parties refused to enter Budget talks.
Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie MSP said he would be -“encouraging” the rural economy committee to take evidence on the plans.
He said it would be up to councils who chose to impose charges “to design a scheme and consult on it locally”.
Source : EXPRESS