Holyrood faces turmoil as MSPs reject budget

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Indy Politics

The Scottish Government was plunged into crisis last night after its £33bn spending plans were thrown out by the Edinburgh parliament.

In dramatic scenes in Holyrood, the minority Scottish National Party administration failed by a single vote to win backing for its Budget Bill.

With voting tied at 64-64, Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson used his casting vote against the Bill. The SNP faces a desperate scramble to win extra support. If ministers fail to build a majority for the Budget proposals by April, they will be forced to trigger emergency public spending arrangements. Moments after the vote, John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, said he would bring forward another Budget Bill at "the earliest possible opportunity".

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said: "The Government cannot stay in office unless we can get a Budget through" – a warning dismissed by Labour as "brinkmanship".

The SNP had spent days of horse-trading, trying to win backing for its spending plans. The Tories voted for the plans after Mr Swinney bowed to their calls for a £60m town centre regeneration fund. They also won the backing of independent MSP Margo MacDonald. But Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against the Bill.

This left the parliament's two Greens holding the cards. But they cast votes against the Budget after the SNP rejected calls for a £100m-a-year free insulation scheme. The tie forced Mr Fergusson to use his casting vote against the Bill. He acted with protocol, voting for the status quo in the event of a tie.

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