Billed by the Scottish Government as a ‘bold, ambitious and progressive funding package to create a greener, fairer Scotland.’ the Scottish Budget for 2022-23 was announced in the Holyrood Parliament by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on Thursday, 9th December.
Needless to say it has had a mixed reception depending on which party politician is speaking. But what is in it?
- £18 billion for Health and Social Care
- £150 million for walking, wheeling and cycling
- £145.5 million for the sustained employment of additional teachers and classroom assistants
- £831 million for affordable housing
- £123 million to protect and restore nature, woodland creation and the sustainable management of Scotland’s woodlands
- £1.4 billion for the police
- £12.5 billion for local authorities
- £124 million for employability and training
- £20 million for the 10 year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray
Kate Forbes said:
“This Budget focuses on tackling the climate emergency, reducing inequalities and supporting economic recovery.
“It is the first budget of this partnership in government and has been development in cooperation with the Scottish Green Party, delivering on commitments made as part of the Bute House Agreement. I welcome their support and their constructive challenge.”
The SNP shares government with the Scottish Greens. Their co-leader Patrick Harvey said:
“This Budget delivers on key commitments made in the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens, including making bus travel free to children and young people and doubling the Scottish Child Payment. Our plans will also see over £2 billion invested in tackling the climate emergency, helping accelerate a just transition to a net-zero economy and laying the foundations for a green economic recovery.”
You can find out more here: Scottish Budget 2022-23
Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem has described the budget as having serious consequences for local services and that the islands have been ‘short changed’.
Liam McArthur said:
“Quite what a £3.1m cut in ferry funding will mean in practice remains to be seen, but it can hardly be good news for places like Orkney. Having increased funding immediately ahead of the last election, it would surely be stretching cynicism too far for the SNP government now to renege on those commitments.
“More generally, the sharp squeeze on Council budgets is a concern not just here in Orkney but across the country. Ministers have continued to strip powers away from local authorities, with further plans to do the same in relation to social care, but are happy to leave Councils carrying the can for cuts to local services. That shows a blatant lack of respect for local democracy and accountability.
“Elsewhere, the budget falls short in key areas such as tackling long covid, building back social care and fighting climate change. As Scotland continues to battle the effects of a pandemic, Brexit and a climate emergency, it needs a government focussed on recovery. Instead, we see funding and priority given to the pursuit of another divisive referendum on independence.”
SNP Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has welcomed a commitment to invest £831 million into affordable housing.
Emma Roddick commented:
“Housing is a huge issue for Scotland and the Highlands and Islands – a lot of my constituents come to me for support with finding their first or a more appropriate home.
“I am therefore pleased to hear that an amazing £831 million is going to be invested into affordable housing to support the building of 110,000 affordable homes over the next decade. It is so important that we turn the tide on housing being seen as a commodity for the few to collect as much of as possible, and focus instead on providing a home for everyone in Scotland.
“This investment is a great step towards that goal.”
The Scottish Greens Co Leader Lorna Slater MSP said that it is a budget ‘to deliver a just transition and a green recovery from the pandemic.’
Lorna Slater said:
“Over £400 million will be invested in our plans to lower emissions from buildings – cutting emissions, making homes warmer and tackling fuel poverty.
“We are supporting local buses and introducing free bus travel for everyone under 22. We are delivering record investment in active travel, with £150m for walking, wheeling and cycling. And we are investing £1.4bn in creating a greener rail network, helping put public transport first.
“We are doubling the child payment, helping stretched families that have been hit by the pandemic and Boris Johnson’s Universal Credit cut.
“As well as over a billion pounds for social care and integration, including a pay rise for social care workers, this budget delivers record mental health spending, including a £120m Mental Health Renewal and Recovery plan. Funding for new teachers and classroom assistants is the highest it has been since 2007.
“We are not just talking about change. We are delivering it. There’s lots more to come.”
Labour commented that the Budget was ‘more managed decline under the SNP.’
Daniel Johnson MSP for Labour said:
“Of course, there are things in the budget that we welcome. It is right that the NHS gets the bulk of new funding, but we know that there are more people stuck in hospital because we cannot recruit enough care workers to look after them than there are people in hospital with Covid. That is why care workers deserve a fair pay increase to £15 an hour, not a meagre pay rise of barely 50p. That is an insult to those hard-working workers.”
And the Tories went further with their criticism of the Budget. Liz Smith MSP said that businesses would be disappointed. She commented:
“Why is there no commitment to a clear programme for long-awaited structural reforms to the Scottish economy, especially the reform of non-domestic rates? Scotland is set to receive £2.1 billion in healthcare consequentials and, although £1.2 billion in consequentials is coming to local government, there is clearly a real-terms cut to local government in the budget. “
Organisations which campaign on environmental issues have welcomed the commitment to transition. Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Director Dr Richard Dixon said:
“This budget takes some useful steps in the right direction on the funding needed to properly tackle the climate crisis, and by making that action one of the three stated priorities.
“There are important moves in this budget to address the transport sector which is the most climate polluting sector of Scottish life. Funding for walking and cycling has increased to record levels and sets us on the way to deliver the promise of 10% of the transport budget going on active travel.
“A 20% increase in the fund which helps bus companies transition to electric vehicles is very welcome with thousands of buses needing to be replaced over the next two years. Funding to help councils develop bus companies and significantly increased funding for rail are also good news.
“We have been consistently calling for free public transport, and while we welcome continuing funding for free travel for under 22s in Scotland, public transport should be free at the point of use for everyone.
“There is a massive challenge to make Scotland’s homes and buildings more energy efficient and the government has promised to invest £1.8bn over this Parliament but the £336m allocated in this budget fails to give this work the flying start it needs. This budget takes some of the right steps but we need to urgently accelerate action to address the climate emergency.“
Since the budget also gives local authorities a carte blanche in terms of full freedom to increase council tax… anybody up for a bet whether this freedom will be used by OIC?