Scotland politics

MSPs vote for Scottish Budget Bill

MSPs have overwhelmingly backed the Scottish Budget Bill which was debated in the Scottish Parliament.

The Budget Bill, which sets out its spending plans for 2012/13, has now passed its stage one.

Finance Secretary John Swinney insisted that the government wanted to work constructively with its opponents.

Despite his call, Labour and the Tories said the budget did not do enough to address unemployment. The Lib Dems said the plans lacked detail.

And the Scottish Green Party labelled the bill a "bad Budget".

For the first time, the SNP does not need opposition votes to get the plan through.

MSPs today backed it by 64 votes to 40, with 14 abstentions.

The Budget Bill was published last Friday and reflects the Spending Review published in September.

The Bill includes resources to deliver 25,000 modern apprenticeships and a guaranteed training or learning opportunity for every 16 to 19-year-old.

It outlines infrastructure projects such as the new Forth Crossing and the new Glasgow Southern Hospitals project, as well as resources to continue the council tax freeze and maintain police and teacher numbers.

Mr Swinney said: "This government has taken the decisions to prioritise economic recovery, to ensure that Scotland is in a position to deal with the severe economic difficulties that we face, to build for the future and to ensure that our public services are supported in the years to come.

"That is the foundation of the government's budget.

"The government looks forward to the debate on this issue in the course of the next two weeks, to listening to the arguments of the opposition, to responding where there are constructive and positive suggestions, and delivering a budget that meet the needs of the people of Scotland."

Labour finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said: "Overall, the budget does not do enough to generate employment or to galvanise the Scottish economy.

"Rather than making damaging cuts, the SNP needs to invest in housing and colleges to tackle youth unemployment and maintain jobs and services."

Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said the budget had to focus on jobs and the economy.

Additional funds

He said: "At a time when unemployment is dangerously high, and a time when youth unemployment is at its highest, with 88,000 people in Scotland between the ages of 18 and 24 out of work, we are deciding to cut quite dramatically, in a single year, the college budget. That makes no financial sense."

Mr Brown was also critical of the retail levy, which would bring in a new tax for large retailers selling alcohol and tobacco, saying it would make Scottish stores "less competitive than the rest of the UK".

Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur said the Scottish government had "significant additional funds" at its disposal since the draft Budget was published last September, as a result of additional consequentials from decisions taken by the UK government.

He said: "Sadly, the Budget Bill published last week provides no detail on how these resources will be spent."

Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said: "John Swinney's rhetoric on achieving broad agreement on this Budget would be more credible if he acknowledged the many voices condemning his cuts to colleges and sustainable transport."

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