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BUDGET FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY PASSES SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

5th February 2009

The second budget of this Scottish Government has been passed by Parliament, securing vital public spending at a time when the economy needs it most.

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth said the vote in favour of the spending plans would ensure a massive investment programme across Scotland would go ahead, keeping the economy moving and supporting nearly 5,000 jobs.

Key announcements made during the passage of the reintroduced Bill through all three stages on Wednesday 4th February 2009 include:

* A 60 million Town Centre Regeneration Fund, complementing efforts already underway to support town and city centres across Scotland which are feeling the effects of the economic downturn. Full details will be announced in due course with the budget provision made;

* An area based home insulation scheme made up of 15 million of new Government funding and 15 million from other partners to provide up to 90,000 homes with energy efficiency advice and assistance and with insulation where suitable and appropriate;

* 16 million in 2009-10 to increase apprenticeship recruitment. By detailed calculations, the Scottish Government believe that this will allow for the recruitment of 7,800 new apprentices in our economy at this vital time - taking the total in 2009-10 to 18,500. Mr Swinney also said the Scottish Government would organise an apprenticeship summit, convened by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

Mr Swinney reiterated the Scottish Government's agreement on strategic financial and economic issues to:

* A commitment to take forward a Finance Sector Jobs Task Force within the context of the Financial Services Advisory Board;

* The Government will submit evidence to the Calman Commission on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament, particularly to borrow;

* And a joint strategic review of public spending in Scotland to prepare for the reducing profile of public funding over forthcoming years.

Mr Swinney said: "Last year we passed a historic first Budget. This year we have faced the challenge of delivering spending plans to guide Scotland through an economic downturn and to maximise our potential for recovery.

"Working with Parliament the successful passage of the Budget Bill rises to the challenge of helping hard pressed businesses and households the length and breadth of Scotland.

"The Budget will support our economic recovery plan and includes vital measures such as the removal of businesses rates for tens of thousands of small businesses, the resources to enable councils to freeze council tax and a massive infrastructure investment programme which we will deliver working with our local government partners.

"We have also been able to take steps to invest crucial money in our town centres and in the skills of our workforce through increased modern apprenticeships. In the longer term we have agreed to take forward a Finance Sector Jobs Task Force within the context of the Financial Services Advisory Board, press the case for borrowing powers for Scotland for investment and conduct a joint strategic review of public spending in Scotland - all important measures for the long term health of our economy.

"This is a budget for economic recovery. Securing parliamentary approval is a significant step forward, but it is only the start of our task. Now we must drive forward the plans and ensure they deliver for the whole of Scotland."

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