Budget Bill published

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Parliament must engage positively on the Scottish Government’s spending plans, which will protect jobs, frontline services and economic recovery in the face of Westminster cuts, Finance Secretary John Swinney has said.

Mr Swinney was speaking as the Budget Bill 2011-12 was officially published ahead of the Stage One Debate at the Scottish Parliament next Wednesday.

Mr Swinney said:

“In the face of a swingeing £1.3 billion cut in Scotland’s budget from Westminster, we have delivered a set of spending plans that not only balance the books, but also protects jobs, and frontline services, promotes economic recovery and provides vital investment in Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy.

“For example, the Budget contains an agreement with COSLA to deliver a further council tax freeze, maintain police numbers and key education and social care commitments.

“They build on our work already underway to nurture economic recovery – an approach which is having a real impact, as recent falls in unemployment and continued economic growth demonstrate. For example, our budget maintains the valuable Small Business Bonus Scheme into next year, helping tens of thousands of small businesses around Scotland during tough times.

“The plans we have published today are consistent with the draft budget published last year. We believe these plans represent the best way forward to promote economic recovery and protect frontline services.

“But, as a minority Government, we seek to build consensus across Parliament.

“I have already met with opposition parties to discuss the budget plans. And I have been clear we will consider the report of the Finance Committee and respond in due course.

“We will always consider ideas that match our priorities of supporting economic growth and protecting frontline services. But any proposals that do come forward must also explain where else in the budget the money will come from to fund them.

“The meetings I have staged so far have been constructive and I call on all Parliamentarians to approach next week’s Stage One debate in the same positive spirit. By doing so, we can all rise to the challenge of dealing with the cuts imposed by the UK Government to deliver the best possible budget for Scotland.”

The Budget Bill published today reflects the Draft Budget published in November, the main points include:

* An agreement with COSLA to deliver a further council tax freeze, maintain police numbers and key education and social care commitments
* Funding for major infrastructure projects such as the new Forth Crossing, the South Glasgow Hospitals and Scotland’s Schools for the Future building programme – and a £2.5 billion pipeline of health, education and transport projects to be delivered through the Non-Profit Distributing model
* Protecting spending on running health services in Scotland and abolishing remaining prescription charges, finally removing the tax on ill-health
* Introducing a pay freeze for public sector workers, with staff earning less than £21,000 receiving a minimum annual pay increase of £250, and bear down on the cost of the pay bill for the highest paid. This will also suspend all access to bonuses next year
* Maintaining existing eligibility criteria for free personal care and concessionary travel, saving money for older people
* Maintaining the valuable Small Business Bonus Scheme, helping smaller companies through the difficulties many face in the present climate that will help tens of thousands of small businesses around Scotland during tough times
* Implement the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, establishing the £70 million Renewables Infrastructure Fund, which will receive £17 million in 2011-12

The Stage One Debate will be held in Parliament next Wednesday (January 26th)