Scotland politics

John Swinney gives green light to £330m hub projects

John Swinney Image copyright PA
Image caption John Swinney will unveil his Scottish budget next month

Scotland's finance secretary John Swinney has given the go-ahead for 12 new capital investment projects worth £330m.

The announcement was made as Mr Swinney updated MSPs on his financial plans in the aftermath of the Chancellor's autumn statement.

The new projects involve ten schools and two new health centres.

The investment will come through an innovative capital programme which keeps the spending off balance sheets.

Plans for the projects, which are to be delivered through the Scottish government's Hub programme, were put on hold earlier this year while advice was sought from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) about the impact of revisions to European accounting guidance.

'Enormous difference'

Mr Swinney said the ONS had now offered the view that the Scottish Future Trust's proposed Hub model would be classified to the private sector.

He explained: "This means that I am able today to advise relevant local authorities and health boards that they can proceed to contract award with hub projects under the revised model.

"Confirmation of a private sector classification from the ONS means that Scottish government support for these projects can be drawn from long-term resource budgets as intended."

He predicted that the projects would "make an enormous difference in their communities, not just in the jobs that their construction will bring but in the health and education benefits they will provide to local people".

The 12 projects are:

  • Lothian Health Centre bundle (NHS Lothian) - £25m
  • Inverclyde Care Home (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde) - £8m
  • Kelso High School (Borders Council) - £20m
  • Newbattle High School (Midlothian Council) - £35m
  • Baldragon Academy (Dundee City Council) - £25m
  • Elgin High School (Moray Council) - £25m
  • Dalbeattie Learning Campus (Dumfries and Galloway Council) - £25m
  • Barrhead High School (East Renfrewshire Council) - £25m
  • Our Lady & St Patrick's High School (West Dunbartonshire Council) - £25m
  • Ayr Academy (South Ayrshire Council) - £25m
  • Campbeltown Grammar and Oban High School (Argyll and Bute Council) - £55m
  • East Ayrshire Learning Campus (Kilmarnock Academy) (East Ayrshire Council) - £40m

Mr Swinney also updated Holyrood on the state of Scotland's finances ahead of setting out detailed plans on his budget on 16 December.

He said that Wednesday's spending review showed that Chancellor George Osborne was continuing with a programme of austerity that would cut the Scottish government's day to day resource budget by "almost 6%" over the next four years.

He added: "While we recognise the need to ensure the public finances are on a sustainable footing, the scale of the cuts in unnecessary."

But he welcomed increases in capital spending, which he said would see the Scottish government's ability to invest in long-term infrastructure investment enhanced over the spending review period.

He said Mr Osborne's U-turn on tax credit cuts was a "welcome change of direction" and pledged to pressure the UK government to also reverse its plans for £12bn of welfare cuts in future years.

Spending Review

What's up and what's down in Scotland?

14%

UP - capital spend

5.7%

DOWN - day-to-day revenue spend

And Mr Swinney repeated his threat that Holyrood would veto the Scotland Bill on further devolution unless unless a fair funding deal was reached in the ongoing negotiations between the UK and Scottish governments.

As the finance secretary was speaking, Labour councillors from North and South Lanarkshire held a protest outside the Scottish Parliament against any more reductions in the local authority budgets.

Labour's Jackie Baillie also welcomed the "dramatic U-turn from the Tories" over tax credit cuts, which she said Labour had campaigned "long and hard for".

But she said she was "disappointed" that with new powers set to come to Holyrood, Mr Swinney "looked like he was only setting out plans for one year."

She added: "Surely if we are serious about the sustainability of the nation's finances and using our new powers, we should have a full comprehensive Scottish spending review.

"He knows the numbers for the next three years, so why can't he tell us the outline plans? And surely he should take the opportunity to consider how the new powers can be used to protect people from austerity."

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said Mr Swinney had been calling for years for more money for capital spending, and the Chancellor had delivered a 14% increase.

And he said Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had been among those to pressure Mr Osborne over tax credits, which he said meant Mr Swinney no longer had to find the money from his budget to make up any difference.

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