MSPs back the government's budget plans in principle

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Opposition leaders urged Finance Secretary John Swinney to change tack on spending plans for the coming year but the budget bill was backed in principle, on 22 January 2012.

MSPs backed the general principles of the bill at decision time, with 66 backing it 41 against and 12 abstaining.

Mr Swinney insisted his Budget (Scotland) (No. 2) Bill 2013-14 provided a "bold and ambitious" programme prioritising "employability and economic recovery".

He was calling on MSPs to back the general principles of the budget bill at the beginning of a debate on the legislation.

The finance secretary said: "I believe that this budget provides a bold and ambitious programme of investment in our people and infrastructure, in the context of the most challenging financial environment that Scotland has faced since devolution."

The total budget, which amounts to about £28.6bn, would "accelerate economic recovery" in the face of Westminster constraints, he said.

Ken Macintosh, the Scottish Labour finance spokesperson, called for a reversal of the "£35m college cuts", for the government to invest £331m UK capital consequentials in housing and for a reinstatement of the full funding for rail improvements between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Mr Macintosh said: Ken Macintosh, Labour's finance spokesman, conceded that Mr Swinney had to deal with a "difficult" allocation from the UK Government, which decides how much money the Scottish Government gets.

But he said: "Much as we are united in disagreeing with the wrong-headed austerity economics of George Osborne, we are divided on Mr Swinney's mistaken assumption that there is nothing he can do.

"We are divided on the notion that this parliament cannot make a difference.

"Fundamentally, we are divided on the SNP's claim that this is a budget for jobs and growth when all the evidence points to the contrary."

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, Gavin Brown said: "This is a Scottish government under pressure when it has come to this year`s budget.

"On the day that the budget was launched, there was almost nobody that accepted the Scottish Government`s argument that it was a budget for the economy.

"This included the Finance Committee, which failed to support a proposition that this was a budget that genuinely prioritised the economy."

Mr Brown renewed his call for the mutualisation of Scottish Water, which said would "save at least £100 million in capital".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie highlighted college funding calling for "consideration that £35 million is put back in the budget to reverse the cuts".

Mr Rennie also called for extra investment in two-year-olds in Scotland, to enable 40% of the poorest two-year-olds to get 15 hours of nursery education each week.

Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie said he hoped the government produced a report which explained how it would make up lost ground following its failure to meet the first annual target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Harvie said until that was done it would be "impossible to vote for the budget.

The second part of the budget debate can be viewed below:

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