Scottish government 'building boom' promised

From Democracy Live: Finance Secretary John Swinney says capital spending will aid economic recovery

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Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has promised a "building boom" under a £205m plan for construction and other projects which will support 2,000 jobs.

His plans, including £50m for new affordable housing, will be funded through extra cash given to Scotland from the UK Treasury.

But Mr Swinney said his government's capital budget had still been reduced under Westminster spending cuts.

Opposition parties questioned when the new projects would get under way.

Chancellor George Osborne, in his autumn statement, said Scotland would receive its share of an additional £5bn he wanted to see spent on buildings and infrastructure, amounting to about £394m in extra capital funding for the SNP government.

Scotland also got a basic revenue rise of £90m, but departmental cuts of just under £160m left a real spend of £331m.

Mr Swinney's plans, which will see councils get £46m for capital projects that are "shovel ready", came ahead of Scottish budget discussions at the start of 2013.

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Mr Swinney noted, with only a mild degree of festive acid, that the extra money reduced the overall real-terms cut in Scotland's capital allocation from 33% to 26%. ”

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He told parliament the UK government had delayed for two years in providing the funding boost which Scottish ministers demanded, adding: "This government acted swiftly to provide an immediate capital stimulus to Scotland's economy at the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

"As a consequence, Scotland's experience of recession has been shorter and shallower than the rest of the UK."

Mr Swinney added: "The changes I am announcing today, which will deliver a building boom for Scotland, will be reflected in the Budget Bill and I will welcome the debate about these proposals as part of the budget process in the new year."

Where is the cash being spent?

Housing - £50m

Transport - £21m

Regeneration - £22m

Further and higher education - £19m

Economic development projects - £11m

Health maintenance - £10m

Justice system estate maintenance - £10m

Forestry, national parks and tourism - more than £7m

Culture and heritage projects - almost £7m

Responding to the finance secretary's statement, Labour's Ken Macintosh said: "Everyone likes to play Santa at Christmas and I have no doubt that everyone named today who has been shouting up the cabinet secretary's chimney will be pleased to hear his news.

"There has been some concern at exactly how 'shovel ready' the Scottish government's list of projects is - the cabinet secretary described his list as projects which could begin construction by the end of 2013-14 - that doesn't sound all that shovel ready to me."

Gavin Brown, of the Conservatives, added: "What matters most for our construction industry is when the shovels go in the ground - not when the project is announced, or indeed re-announced, in many cases."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the housing money was "very positive" but raised concern that previously mentioned capital projects, including improvements to the A96 road and new health centres in the north east, had not been included.

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