Swinney unveils a Scottish budget for jobs and growth

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  The Draft Budget for 2013-14 and the actions the Scottish Government will take this Autumn will provide further investment in construction, skills and the green economy John Swinney said today.
 
Setting out the budget to Parliament, Finance Secretary John Swinney pledged £180 million over two years for construction, skills and employment and a green economic stimulus.  He also confirmed more rapid delivery of the Schools for the Future programme worth £80 million.

Reinforcing the Government’s commitment to young people Mr Swinney announced an initiative to create up to 10,000 job opportunities for young Scots.

The Budget maintains the Government’s commitments to a council tax freeze, police numbers, no tuition fees, free prescriptions and concessionary travel, with protection for the NHS budget.

Announcements today include:

  • £40 million for affordable housing, starting this year
  • £80 million Schools for the Future programme through NPD
  • Creation of an Energy Skills Academy
  • Employer recruitment initiative for young people
  • £17 million for college education and student support
  • Commitment to the Living Wage
  • £6 million for cycling
  • £1 million for Elite athletes
  • £2.5 million for hybrid buses
  • £1.5 million for VisitScotland
  • £1 million for historic buildings

The Finance Secretary also confirmed a modest 1% increase for most Government and NHS employees, with additional support for the low paid, continued implementation of the Scottish Living Wage and no compulsory redundancies.

Addressing the Parliament Mr Swinney said:

“Today I am announcing a Scottish budget for jobs and growth.  In difficult economic times this Government is doing everything within its limited power to stimulate Scotland’s economy, to invest in our young people,  protect households, and support front line services.

“To support the construction industry and inject growth into the economy we will provide an immediate stimulus to the construction industry of £40 million through investment in affordable housing.

“I am also determined to ensure our young people get the best education in the best possible schools.  So to further assist the construction sector we will increase the number of schools being built from 55 to 67 bringing forward £80 million investment through NPD.

“A Green Investment Package of £30m over the next three years will help home owners improve energy efficiency, cutting bills and tackling fuel poverty  whilst along with investment in low carbon transport supporting our growth industries and helping to meet our climate change targets.  We will also establish the Renewable Energy Investment Fund continuing our support for Scotland’s growing energy sector.

“I am also investing in the future of our young people with support for a national employer recruitment initiative that will create up to 10,000 opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to recruit young people, the establishment of an Energy Skills Academy to support the creation of skills in oil and gas, renewables, thermal generation and carbon capture and storage industries and additional funding for colleges to maintain student numbers and support.

“I have used every option available to draw down resources to fund a further economic stimulus to the Scottish economy of over £180 million. Through use of budget exchange mechanisms, early repayment of loans and careful managing of the capital budget I have drawn down funds to invest in Scotland’s economy. We are also reaping the benefits of the public ownership of Scottish Water which, as well as allowing Scottish customers enjoy the benefit of water bills on average £52 lower than in England also enabled us to reduce our lending to the company by £45 million allowing that money to be invested in the economy.

“We are doing everything we can to support growth, public services and opportunities for the future but the UK Government needs to realise that more needs to be done. Only with the full levers of independence can Scotland properly capture economic opportunity and tackle inequality and poverty and we can do so more efficiently and effectively than currently happens in the UK.”

However Mr Swinney’s budget was attacked by opponents, with Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem spokesmen all criticising the Scottish government Minister.

Labour spokesman Ken Macintosh accused Mr Swinney of trying to blame the Tory/Lib Dem coalition and added: “This is yet again another pass the buck budget from John Swinney.

“The unfortunate result of this budget is likely to be the loss of more public sector jobs, but with very little to kick start the Scottish economy.”

The Scottish Trades Union Congress also expressed disappointment that Mr Swinney had “followed George Osborne’s public sector pay policy almost to the letter” by imposing a one per cent cap on pay increases for public sector workers.

However the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said it welcomed the announcement of an additional £40m investment in affordable housing.

Chief Executive Mary Taylor said: “We are extremely pleased that it recognises the immediate economic and social benefits for Scotland in building more affordable homes.”

“We also welcome the government’s recognition of the benefits of focusing on construction investment.”

SNP MSP Mark McDonald said the budget highlighted the totally contrasting approaches of the Scottish and UK Governments and added:

“The contrast between the Scottish and UK Governments could not be clearer.  We are living in incredibly tough financial times, and while the UK Government stifles growth and takes money from the most vulnerable in society, the Scottish budget has growth and fairness at its heart.

“The Scottish Government, along with the other devolved administrations across the UK, recognises the paramount importance of capital investment to support economic recovery – that’s why the hundreds of millions of pounds being poured into vital projects across Scotland – supporting thousands of jobs in the process – is particularly welcome.

“And of course the living wage, the council tax freeze, free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free university tuition are all helping to put money back into families’ pockets.

“Above all, this budget helps explain why Scots overwhelmingly trust the Scottish Government to make the right decisions for Scotland, while fewer than one in five Scots trust the Westminster Government.”

Hear John Swinney interviewed on Radio Scotland

Hear Ken Mackintosh’s response to the Scottish budget