The Scottish Budget To Be Announced
The Finance Secretary will outline his Budget plan for 2014-15 amid calls to address issues ranging from the cost of living and housing, to college funding and childcare.
The draft Budget, detailing the Scottish Government's spending proposals, will be announced by John Swinney and debated by MSPs at Holyrood. Liberal Democrats will urge the SNP administration to reverse cuts to college budgets and extend free childcare, while the Greens are calling for measures to address the rising cost of living.
Speaking before the debate, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: ``The SNP have let Scottish families down. They have failed to match the Liberal Democrats in the UK Government and provide more free nursery care for two-year-olds. Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling on the SNP to adopt our costed plans to help 24,000 families with two-year-old children in this Budget.
``If we want to build a strong economy, we need strong foundations. That is why the SNP must reverse its shameful attack on Scotland's colleges. SNP reforms have seen the number of part-time college places fall by more than 80,000 since 2009. This year the SNP will slash college budgets by £25 million.''
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the Government must use the Budget to ensure any economic recovery benefits individuals and not just big business.
``This must not be a Budget that stores up problems. We must use all the available powers at Holyrood to create jobs now and reduce inequality now,'' he said.
``We need to see spending plans that close the gap between individual incomes and corporate wealth.''
Mr Swinney has announced that the cost of the new bridge over the Firth of Forth is an estimated £145 million lower than previously thought, as he highlighted the Government's approach to infrastructure investment.
Speaking on the eve of the Budget, he said: ``It is very positive news for Scotland to be able to announce that the Scottish Government is further reducing the budget range for the Forth Replacement Crossing project to #1.4 billion to £1.45 billion.
``Over the last few years we have taken a deliberately Scottish approach to investing in infrastructure. We are supporting an investment-led recovery in distinct contrast to the austerity agenda of the UK Government.''
Meanwhile, campaigners will be outside the Scottish Parliament as the Budget is announced, demanding that politicians do more to help households hit by the so-called bedroom tax and other welfare reforms.
Graeme Brown, director of housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland, said: ``The Scottish Budget presents the first opportunity to offer much-needed hope to those affected by the bedroom tax in Scotland and we call on John Swinney to start the ball rolling by committing £20 million extra funding.''