Finance Secretary Kate Forbes urges MSPs to back ‘bold and ambitious’ Budget

Opposition parties and councils claim local government funding will be cut by £371 million in real terms – which the Scottish Government rejects.

Craig Paton
Thursday 27 January 2022 00:01
The first debate on the Scottish Budget will take place on Thursday afternoon (Jane Barlow/PA)
The first debate on the Scottish Budget will take place on Thursday afternoon (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is urging MSPs to back her “bold and ambitious” spending plans for next year in a key vote at Holyrood.

Ms Forbes made the appeal amid concern from opposition parties about the amount of cash the Scottish Government has allocated to local government in its 2022-23 Budget.

MSPs are to discuss the general principles of tax and spending plans in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Despite increased financial pressures, we are also continuing to treat councils fairly

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

Ahead of that debate, Scottish Conservatives pushed the Greens – who signed a powersharing agreement to enter Government last August – to “show some backbone” and stand up to SNP ministers over what they claim to be a cut to councils.

Opposition parties and local government body Cosla have said the Budget allocation for councils, more than £11 billion, is a real-terms cut of £371 million.

However speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Forbes said: “Our bold and ambitious spending plans are focused on supporting our key priorities, ensuring no one and no region is left behind.”

The Finance and Economy Secretary said her draft budget “targets resources towards low-income households, invests in initiatives to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and fundamentally, provides much-needed investment to bolster our economic recovery”.

She continued: “Recognising the severe impacts of the pandemic, £18 billion will support health boards and accelerate the recovery of vital health and social care services.

“Significant funding is also being provided to support the next steps in the single greatest public health reform since the establishment of the NHS – the creation of a new National Care Service.”

Tackling child poverty is another “key priority”, she added with the Scottish Government having pledged £197 million of cash to double the Scottish Child Payment – which is paid weekly to low-income families – from £10 to £20.

The Budget also allocates “at least £2 billion” in investments to support green jobs and work towards achieving net-zero emissions, Ms Forbes said.

She also insisted: “Despite increased financial pressures, we are also continuing to treat councils fairly and we are providing a real-terms increase of over 5% to local authority budgets for the coming year – despite cuts to Scotland’s overall budget by the UK Government.”

Unless they speak up and challenge the SNP over the devastating local council funding cut they have planned, the Greens will have abandoned their principles

Scottish Conservative finance spokeswoman Liz Smith

However, Scottish Tory finance spokeswoman Liz Smith claimed that Thursday’s vote was “the Greens’ big chance to show some backbone and stand up to the SNP”.

The Conservative said: “Unless they speak up and challenge the SNP over the devastating local council funding cut they have planned, the Greens will have abandoned their principles.

“It will be clearer than ever that they sold out simply for the good of the nationalist movement, and not for the good of the country.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton announced his party will vote against the Budget due to a lack of funding for social care and treatments for long Covid.

“Faced with a budget that delivers £371 million in cuts to local government and an unwillingness on the part of the SNP-Green Government to deliver key Scottish Liberal Democrat demands on long Covid and social care, we have no choice but to vote against the Budget at stage one,” he said.

However, the protestations of the opposition are likely to have no impact on the passage of the Bill at the first, or any other stage, of its parliamentary journey, with the SNP and Greens having more than enough votes required to pass the Budget without help from other parties.

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