Scotland politics

MSPs pass £30bn Scottish budget at Holyrood

MSPs have approved the Scottish government's £30bn budget in a Holyrood vote which saw 70 members backing it and 52 members rejecting it.

Earlier, Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney confirmed an extra £382m would go to support students, transport, housing and health projects.

Labour said it was not enough and the Conservatives attacked business tax rises, but Lib Dem MSPs supported it.

Mr Swinney had insisted that his budget was one for growth.

He said £19.5m would be given to student support; £45m to affordable housing; £72m to roads projects and an extra £94m to local government.

Mr Swinney had insisted that the proposals in his Budget Bill "will boost public sector capital investment, takes direct action to tackle unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, and enhances economic security across the Scottish economy".

He told MSPs: "I have listened to views from across Scotland and this is a budget for growth that puts the interests of our economy, our public services and the people of Scotland first."

Mr Swinney confirmed his public health supplement which will be levied against large retail properties which sell alcohol and are registered for tobacco sales.

He said about 240 retail premises - or 0.1% of all business premises in Scotland - would pay more.

But the SNP minister added that following talks with retailers he was going to reduce the amount paid by individual retailers and limit the length of time that the supplement would apply.

Mr Swinney said the change to the plan would reduce the estimated income by £15m to £95m over the three-year period up to 2015.

He believed that the reduction would be offset "in full" by the income generated through matching the English Large Business Supplement.

Mr Swinney also confirmed that the public health supplement would be a temporary measure applied for the next three years.

Scottish Labour's finance spokesman Ken Macintosh MSP said the additional funding did not go far enough and the budget did not recognise the scale of the "jobs crisis" Scotland was facing.

He added: "Despite today's last minute announcement, the SNP government is still choosing to make huge cuts to housing, our colleges and the services people depend on locally.

"It is simply not good enough to cut the budget by £40m this year rising to £74m in two years' time - then to give back £19m and expect a round of applause.

"John Swinney talks of a budget for jobs and growth but there is no sign in this budget of a government grabbing the economy by the scruff of the neck - no sign of the dynamism needed to galvanise the economy, no sign even of a government taking all possible steps to protect jobs and create employment. "

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, said he had had "constructive discussions" with Mr Swinney about the budget and had made a number of suggestions for changes.

'No strings attached'

He told the chamber: "On colleges, we think there has been quite a major step forward and certainly a significant change from the rhetoric of the Education Secretary the previous week, where he said it was a full, fair and final settlement.

"We are pleased that John Swinney has prevailed and has persuaded the education secretary that his colleges get more money. That is a step in the right direction.

"We will need to scrutinise the detail because we will need to make sure that there are no strings attached that deviate away from the central purpose of the colleges."

Mr Rennie also welcomed the extra money for housing. However, he added: "We have deep concerns that the SNP government will be able to reach its 6,000 affordable homes a year (target)."

He also raised concerns about funding for the air discount scheme for the islands and expressed disappointment that the government had not considered his party's policy to reform Scottish Water in order to raise revenue.

The Conservative's Mary Scanlon said there were still concerns surrounding the public health levy, despite the reduced charges for some retailers.

'Serious concerns'

She said: "I really wonder about John Swinney's constructive discussions with retailers that led to this levy being cut to three years. What was the economic rationale for that?

"Why is it being cut by £15m? There are obviously serious concerns there."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie welcomed some elements of the budget but said he was unable to back it.

He was critical of the government, saying: "What we see is a massive increase to the road building budget and cuts, cuts, cuts to the sustainable and active travel budgets."

Mr Harvie added: "We are moving in the wrong direction and that is something entirely within the power of the cabinet secretary to reverse and to do it right now.

"I can't support the Scottish Budget on those terms."

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