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Scotland's Budget Bill Passes First Stage But Councils and Health Boards Still Face Making Cuts

9th February 2024

It is always hard to get a handle on announcements when they are termed in millions and billions. Freezing the council tax may seem like a good idea on the one hand but council do not agree that the payment to cover this is anything like adequate. Councils and Health Boards will shortly agree their budgets and things look bleak with the likely prospect of cuts. We already know capital projects have been slashed - 10 school projects in Highland and several health projects in Caithness Inverness and Fort William seriously delayed. Interest rates are hitting council borrowing. It is likely jobs will be affected in the public sector. So read on.

Plans to target funding at the Scottish Government's key missions amid an "extremely challenging" financial situation have been endorsed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have voted for the general principles of the Scottish Budget Bill, which contains spending plans for 2024-25. Among other priorities, the Budget includes:

£6.3 billion for social security benefits, which will all be increased in line with inflation. This is £1.1 billion more than the funding received from the UK Government for social security, demonstrating the Scottish Government's commitment to tackling poverty.

£13.2 billion for frontline NHS boards, with additional investment of more than half a billion - an uplift of over 4%.

record funding of more than £14 billion for local government, including £144 million to enable local authorities to freeze Council Tax rates at their current levels.

more than £1.5 billion for policing to support frontline services and key priorities such as body-worn cameras, as well as nearly £400 million to support the fire service.

£200 million to help tackle the poverty-related attainment gap, up to £1.5 million to cancel school meal debt and almost £390 million to protect teacher numbers and fund the teacher pay deal.

almost £2.5 billion for public transport to provide viable alternatives to car use and increased investment of £220 million in active travel to promote walking, wheeling and cycling.

Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary Shona Robison said, "I am pleased that MSPs have endorsed our spending plans for the coming financial year.

"This budget is brought against a backdrop of a stagnating UK economy that has been seriously damaged by Brexit and a UK Government that is failing to deliver the investment needed in infrastructure and public services such as our NHS.

“Despite this extremely challenging situation, the Budget targets spending where it will have the most impact to help tackle poverty, support the growth of a green, fair economy and to protect our vital public services.

“This Government is determined to deliver a better, alternative approach for Scotland and I look forward to working further with MSPs as the Bill progresses through Parliament."