Scotland's budget and spending review
The Scottish Government's spending plans for the next three years were outlined to MSPs in the Parliament today.
Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney said it was a budget for growth and prosperity.
Its key commitments are:
- The reduction - and for many the removal - of business rates affecting 150,000 small business premises
- Reduced rail journey times between our major cities
- An ambitious programme to tackle climate change
- Resources to freeze the Council Tax
Mr Swinney said:
"The Scottish Government's budget will build on early achievements such as a Bill to remove bridge tolls, an additional £100 million investment in our universities and colleges, protecting local Accident and Emergency Units; to continue to deliver greater prosperity and opportunity for Scotland.
"I am setting out ambitious spending plans for the next three years despite the tightest UK spending settlement since devolution.
"This is at a time when oil prices are at an historically high level and is a reminder of what we could achieve if we had the ability to balance our own revenues against our own spending.
"The Budget is also delivered against the backdrop of significant inherited spending pressures from the previous administration and spending decisions taken by this Parliament such as £500 million Edinburgh Tram Project."
"This budget puts the interests of Scotland first. We are delivering on our pledges by governing creatively, innovatively, prudently and well.
"Our purpose is to create a more successful Scotland through increased sustainable economic growth. Our spending over the next three years is aligned to achieving that purpose.
"Given the tight settlement we received from Westminister, we have to ensure that we deliver. The public sector will be expected to deliver two per cent efficiency savings, releasing £1.6 billion to support the Government's priorities. We will also significantly reduce the number of quangos and simplify the scrutiny and inspection regime.
"We will deliver value for money by focusing spending on what matters, to ensure that every penny of Scottish money is used in Scotland to provide better schools, better health care, safer communities and better protection for our environment."
The Finance Secretary also revealed details of an agreement that will give Scotland's 32 councils an increasing share of the Scottish block and greater control than ever before over local spending decisions. In return local authorities will work to deliver shared commitments including a freeze in Council Tax.
This agreement with local government, Mr Swinney said, will enable the Scottish Government to deliver on key pledges.
"Unlike previous budgets in Scotland, this budget will match our spending with our overarching purpose of government. It is a major step forward in aligning the whole of the public sector in support of our key objectives.
"We will invest explicitly in making Scotland wealthier and fairer; smarter; healthier; safer and stronger and greener with the overall purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.
"As part of this transformation we are freeing local government to succeed, removing ring-fencing and enabling councils to allocate resources according to local priorities and in line with a new performance framework.
"Our new arrangement with local government will help us to deliver on shared commitments including our promise to freeze the unfair Council Tax."