Swinney calls for all party discussions on budget cuts

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The SNP has called on all parties to join a discussion on how to handle Westminster spending cuts following the publication of an Independent Review of Scotland’s budget.

Scotland faces an unprecedented cut to her budget over the next five years as a result of the economic mismanagement of the economy by successive Labour and Tory UK governments.  The scale of the cuts could lead to a loss of over 50,000 Scottish jobs.


The SNP has called on all parties to join a discussion on how to handle Westminster spending cuts following the publication of an Independent Review of Scotland’s budget.

Scotland faces an unprecedented cut to her budget over the next five years as a result of the economic mismanagement of the economy by successive Labour and Tory UK governments.  The scale of the cuts could lead to a loss of over 50,000 Scottish jobs.

The Independent report sets out a range of options for reducing spending after Labour, the Lib Dems and Tories all announced plans to slash Scotland’s spending over the next 5 years at least.  Cuts planned by the new Conservative / Lib Dem coalition have already been described by UK Treasury Minister Danny Alexander as “brutal”.

The Scottish budget is set by London, and the shocking state of the UK’s finances have fuelled calls by prominent Scottish businesspeople for the Scottish Parliament to take control and be responsible for all of Scotland’s finances.

Responding to the report SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney said:

“The Review findings consider a landscape that results from years of financial mismanagement of public spending, with Scotland’s budget forecast to shrink by 3.7 billion pounds in real terms over the next Spending Review period as a result of Westminster spending cuts. Some two thirds of the cuts planned at the UK level are the legacy of the previous UK Government, the other third the design of the Westminster coalition’s emergency budget that cuts too far and too fast.

Mr Swinney argued that the economic mismanagement strengthened the case for full fiscal autonomy and said:
 
“The Review can only offer options within our current powers, and it underlines the absolute need for the Scottish Parliament and Government to secure financial responsibility and the same economic powers that other nations have so that we can take decisions to boost economic growth and revenues in Scotland.

“We welcome the recognition from the Review of many of the initiatives the Scottish Government is already taking: to deliver greater efficiencies, with a target of 1.6 billion pounds this year; to reduce the number of public bodies – made easier by the passage of the Government’s Public Services Reform Act;  to obtain savings through better procurement; to reduce the scrutiny burden; and its endorsement of us achieving better value in capital spending through the Scottish Futures Trust.

Mr Swinney also confirmed the SNP’s strong opposition to the privatisation of Scottish water saying:

“We particularly welcome the Review’s recognition of the strongly held view, which we share, that water services should not be subject to privatisation. We believe that Scottish Water – which is performing extremely well – should remain under public ownership.
 
“We will build on our strong record in all these areas in considering the findings of the Review.

Mr Swinney said that the Scottish government would consider the report but confirmed the SNP’s intention to protect the most vulnerable and pledged to resist calls to cut free personal care to the elderly.

Mr Swinney added:

“The Scottish Government – working in partnership with Parliament and the people of Scotland – will give careful consideration to what is a lengthy report. There are many options, but clearly there is no need to pursue all of these as they would generate far more savings than is actually required.

“The Government has made clear our determination to protect the vulnerable – which is why for example we will preserve existing eligibility for free personal care and concessionary travel.  And we will apply any Barnett consequentials arising out of the protection given to the health service by the UK Government to the health service in Scotland.
 
“Our task now is to encourage the widest possible debate about the range of options that are contained in this Review.  That is why I have written inviting opposition parties in Scotland to take part in discussions on the Review, and to seek their response to the options that are set out.  We will also take forward dialogue with stakeholders and communities in advance of the Budget process, and members of the public can give us their views through the Government website from today.

Responding to opposition and media criticism that he has yet to detail his spending plans for next year Mr Swinney said:
 
“We will not know the Scottish Government’s budget until the UK Comprehensive Spending Review is announced on October 20. Once that is done, and we have taken account of the views of Scotland, we will set out a Budget that is focused on sustaining economic recovery and protecting frontline services.”

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