Holyrood passes Scottish budget

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The Scottish government’s budget has been passed by Holyrood after MSPs voted in favour of John Swinney’s 2011 spending plans.

The SNP were backed by the independent Margo MacDonald, the LibDems and Tories after Mr Swinney agreed to concessions on youth employment and housing.

The budget, which is to be cut by Westminster by £1.3 billion, passed by 79 votes to 48 with Iain Gray’s Labour party and the Greens voting against.  The debate saw Labour MSP Johann Lamont censured by the Presiding Officer for unacceptable behaviour.

Speaking after the vote the SNP’s John Swinney welcomed the backing of the other parties and described the budget as one that invests in modern apprenticeships and offers support for students.  The Finance Secretary also highlighted support for housing and Scotland’s small business sector.

Mr Swinney said:
“The budget invests in modern apprenticeships, the highest number of modern apprenticeships we’ve ever had in Scotland, 25000.

“It provides additional support for college students, it opens up new investment in housing and support for the small business sector in Scotland.

“These are very good things that I think will be welcomed by people around the country, in addition to the core measures in the budget which include freezing the council tax and delivering business rates relief for small companies.”

Accused by the BBC’s Bill Whiteford of not seeking the support of Labour, Mr Swinney pointed out that he had offered Labour a fully costed proposal that “reflected the issues” Labour had raised but that Labour had still voted against the budget.

Mr Swinney claimed that the refusal of Labour to back the budget after being offered the concessions they had sought said “all we needed to know” about the party and accused Iain Gray’s group of acting in the best interests of Labour and not the best interests of Scotland.

Jeremy Purvis, the Lib Dem finance spokesman, said the budget was “better” and claimed that it would help colleges and businesses.

Mr Purvis said:

“It’s better for young people wanting the skills they and we need for the economy, it’s better for colleges that will able to provide more opportunities, and it’s better for businesses that will have more opportunities to take on apprentices.”

The Conservative spokesman Derek Brownlee described the budget as a “compromise” and referred to the deficit left behind by the last Labour government saying:

“It is obvious it is not a Labour budget – it balances, and doesn’t add another £200bn to national debt.

“This government – as its predecessor did – proclaims that growing the Scottish economy is its top priority – we did not feel that aim shone through the original draft budget.”

Responding for Labour, Andy Kerr blamed rising unemployment on the SNP and said: “Our focus today, tomorrow and the day after must be jobs, jobs, jobs,”

The Labour finance spokesman added: “That is the priority of our constituents and the need of the country.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie claimed that the budget had passed only because the SNP had “found enough votes”.