Media briefing by the First Minister's Official Spokesperson (FMOS) and First Minister's Special Adviser (FMSA), (Post-Cabinet). The FMOS began by welcoming journalists to the briefing.
He said there was a good discussion in Cabinet around the current position of the Budget Bill ahead of the Stage One debate in Parliament.
Cabinet had also received updates on a number of issues.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health had briefed colleagues on a report by the Nuffield Trust, including the fact that for Scotland it had used data which was three-years-old and well out-of-date in terms of the improvement across the NHS in recent years.
The FMOS said Cabinet had also received an update on the weather situation, reflecting on the activity of the preceding week, including the co-ordination work of the Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR).
Asked how much salt was available, the FMOS said stocks had been around 55,000 tonnes the previous day.
Asked why there had been no floods following warnings that these could follow the thaw, the FMOS said the Scottish Government had been working closely with key agency partners to mitigate such effects, for example ensuring that drains and gullies were cleared.
The FMOS said the most recent meeting with Ministers in SGoRR had been on Friday, SGoRR officials had been active over the weekend and there was due to be a meeting of SGoRR the following day (Wednesday).
The Cabinet had also been updated by External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop on the Scottish Government's work with Non-Governmental Organisations to provide support for the emergency rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti.
The Cabinet also had a discussion on the Government's referendum bill proposals, the FMOS said.
The First Minister had also paid tribute to Bill McLaren who died earlier in the day and this tribute had been issued to media.
The First Minister's Special Adviser (FMSA) said there had been a discussion at Cabinet about the Government's referendum proposals and that these would be cleared by Cabinet next week and published shortly thereafter.
Asked when the Bill would be published and if the FMSA was hinting at possible changes, the FMSA said the proposals would be cleared by Cabinet next week and added that the Government's immediate focus was on getting the Budget Bill passed in Parliament.
Asked why the First Minister had previously been reported as saying the Government hoped to publish the Bill on January 25th, the FMSA said he recalled that what he had said was the Government was looking at that, adding that Ministers would looked at a number of dates.
The immediate focus was on the Budget Bill, the FMOS told journalists, adding that Ministers had a clear proposal to publish a bill in the early part of 2010.
Asked if he had never suggested January 25th, the FMSA said a specific publication date was never confirmed and different dates were looked at. The Cabinet would clear the proposals next week and they would be published shortly thereafter, he added.
Asked if there was a problem with the Bill, the FMSA said absolutely not. There was an immediate and vital focus on securing the passage of a budget, he said. This was important for Scotland's public services and Ministers were looking forward to getting the Budget passed.
The Government's plans were to publish its Referendum Bill proposals in the early part of 2010 and following the Cabinet's discussion that day, there would be a final discussion and clearance of the proposals next week, with publication following shortly thereafter.
Asked what next week's Cabinet discussion around the Bill would be about, the FMSA said it would be around the final arrangements for publishing the proposals, et cetera.
Asked if the discussion would cover the substance of the Bill itself, the FMSA the Cabinet had had a good discussion on that earlier in the day and there would be a final discussion about final arrangements the following week. He said Ministers were very much looking forward to publishing the Bill as it would put centre-stage the right of the people of Scotland to have a say on their country's future and securing the powers needed to succeed. It was evident over the course of the economic downturn, he added, that Scotland needs full financial and economic powers in order to be able to react quickly, and to be able to make the most of economic opportunities and the recovery as it emerges.
The FMSA was asked if, as opponents had suggested, Ministers were deliberately delaying publication of the Bill before the General Election to ensure it would still be live during the 'purdah' period. The Scottish Government was setting its timescale for publishing the proposals, while the timing of the General Election was a matter for the Prime Minister, he added.