Budget 1999: The regions - Scotland is winner in devolution handout

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The Independent Online
NORTHERN IRELAND, Scotland and Wales were all given substantial sums for capital investment as the Chancellor sent them off to devolution with a flourish.

Scotland was the biggest winner, with pounds 165m for key commitments to modernise health and education and cut crime across the country. Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, announced that pounds 37m of the money would be directed to National Health Service buildings, equipment and new technology.

Mr Dewar added that education would receive an extra pounds 44m over the next three years to develop computer tuition and provide schools with new books. The cash will be spent on an information and communications technology network linking all schools and other learning centres. To back up the new technology, pounds 5.4m will be targeted specifically on books, the equivalent of pounds 6 for every pupil in Scotland.

An additional pounds 13m over the next three years will be directed to councils, police and other agencies to tackle Scotland's drug abuse problems and domestic violence.

"Today's announcement, together with last year's Budget, will benefit Scottish pupils, parents and pensioners by almost pounds 2bn, giving real help to those who need it most," Mr Dewar said.

Wales will get pounds 80m in extra capital spending, again with the emphasis on health, education and crime prevention.

Alun Michael, the Secretary of State for Wales, said that the Budget was worth more than pounds 1bn for Wales. "The Budget is a real boost for Wales. It fulfils the Government's promise to the Welsh people to make work pay, to support families and to provide extra money for public services," he said.

Northern Ireland will benefit from its own pounds 50m modernisation fund aimed at bolstering the normality of the peace process.

Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that the cash would deliver major improvements in the province's vital services. "The extra money will be used to invest in innovative capital projects at the heart of the Government's priorities," she said.

Accident and emergency services and primary health care, computerised learning centres and local police forces will all receive new funds.

This year will be the last for which Westminster will have such detailed control over the spending of the three countries since the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament start work in May and the Northern Ireland Assembly assumes its powers later in the year.

The Government hopes that the Belfast Assembly will be up and running by the summer, but the continuing deadlock over decommissioning of weapons means that the start-up date is uncertain.