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by Louise Wilson
27 February 2024
MSPs back Budget Bill as Shona Robison urges Jeremy Hunt to increase public spending

Shona Robison urged the UK Government to prioritise public spending over tax cuts next week | Alamy

MSPs back Budget Bill as Shona Robison urges Jeremy Hunt to increase public spending

MSPs have backed the Scottish Government’s budget as the deputy first minister urged the UK Government to invest in public services and infrastructure ahead of the UK Spring Budget next week.

Finance secretary Shona Robison said she had prioritised frontline public services in a “challenging budget requiring difficult choices”.

But the spending plans were labelled “anti-growth” by the Scottish Conservatives and “chaotic and incompetent” by Labour.

The Budget Bill was passed by 68 votes to 55 following a debate on Tuesday afternoon.

Robison introduced the Scottish Budget to parliament in December and no changes to spending choices were made during the amending stages.

However, following a row with local government, ministers have pledged to provide more cash to fund a council-tax freeze, made possible by anticipated consequentials from extra cash for adult social care in England.

The budget will also see the introduction of a new income tax band of 45 per cent for those earning between £75,000 and £125,140, while the top rate of income tax will increase to 48 per cent.

Speaking in the debate, Robison said: “We are choosing to make our income-tax system more progressive in order to help fund our vital frontline services.”

She criticised decisions made by the UK Government, which she said had reduced the Scottish block grant in real terms.

Ahead of the Spring Budget to be delivered by Jeremy Hunt next week, she added: “My message to the Chancellor could not be clearer – prioritise investment in public spending and infrastructure over further tax cuts.”

Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson Liz Smith said the Scottish budget was “anti-growth” and the government should be focusing on how to “mend the big blackhole” in Scotland’s finances.

She added: “There is an extremely important debate to be had about how we make limited resources deliver better results, and when we’re measuring the results we should be measuring the outcomes not the input.”

Scottish Labour’s Michael Marra said the budget “fails the government’s own tests”.

He added: “It is not a budget for growth, it is not a budget for public services, and it is not a budget that fights poverty. It is a budget based on the economically and fiscally illiterate assumption that income tax can be used to plug the hole left by the SNP’s failure to grow the economy.”

Scottish Green finance spokesperson Ross Greer said the budget “reflects Greens values” though he accepted the council tax freeze was “not what the Greens would have chosen” and warned ministers “it cannot happen again”.

His party is in government alongside the SNP through the Bute House Agreement.

Greer added: “This is a budget with Green values at its heart: cancelling school meal debt, expanding free school meals to 20,000 children, that record £4.7bn for climate and nature, creating jobs in the green industries of the future, and it is funded by the redistribution of wealth from those at the top to the most vulnerable in our society and to the public services who need it.”

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