Budget to boost economic growth and innovation
The UK Government’s ideological obsession with austerity means that, between 2010 and 2020, one pound in every eight we spend is being cut. In any walk of life, that’s tough
So the Scottish Government has had to take the difficult decisions – and our budget for next year delivers for low income households, prioritises public service reform and will boost economic growth and innovation.
I have frozen income tax. I have funded a ninth successive year of the council tax freeze, saving the average householder £1,500 over the period. That’s a dual-tax freeze to help families the length and breadth of Scotland who have been battered by austerity.
We will do all we can within our means to protect the most vulnerable in society from the UK Government’s cuts by continuing free school meals, free prescriptions, helping people with council tax bills and ensuring no-one pays the Bedroom Tax.
We will inject an extra £500 million into the health service and, in the most significant reform since the NHS was founded, we are fundamentally changing the way NHS and councils deliver social care so that fewer people need to go to hospital, and when they do, they don’t need to stay do long.
For business, we will create new jobs with a £4 billion infrastructure programme to build more affordable homes, provide next generation broadband and deliver significant transport projects like the Queensferry Crossing. We will review business rates while the Small Business Bonus Scheme will shelter around 100,000 small firms from business rates.
Police funding will increase. We’ll put over £1 billion into higher education, protect further education and provide 600 hours free high-quality early learning and childcare for all three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds. The Education Maintenance Allowance and Modern Apprenticeship programmes will be expanded to help more young people fulfil their potential and enter positive, rewarding employment.
Local government is an essential partner in the Scottish Government’s transformative programme of reforming and improving public services. This budget delivers a strong but challenging financial settlement for local government.
These are the foundations that will dominate the next Parliament – changes to reshape our health and social care services, deliver better education, a fairer system of local taxation and define the use of new powers over tax and welfare.