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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the Scottish Government budget which will deliver on the aspirations of the people of Scotland for a more prosperous and fairer Scotland.
The budget – set out in parliament by Finance Secretary John Swinney last week – will deliver sustainable economic growth while protecting public services and tackling inequality – Despite cuts by Westminster to the Scottish Government’s budget of around 10 per cent in real terms over five years, including capital spending cuts of over 25 per cent.
Scotland’s Health service will be protected with extra funding in 2015-16 – bringing the total health budget to more than £12 billion for the first time.
The Scottish Government has also pledged £81 million to mitigate against Westminster’s welfare reforms while continuing its commitment to the social wage, free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free personal care.
In addition £390 million will be invested in affordable housing and free child care extended to 600 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds.
Mr Swinney also announced a continuation of the council tax freeze – saving families in Band D households almost £500 in the last 3 years.
Ms McAlpine commented:
“Policies like the Council tax freeze and a commitment to the social wage will bring real benefits to my constituents against the backdrop of austerity and cuts from Westminster.
“Mr Swinney’s confirmation that the council tax freeze will be maintained for the eighth year in a row is very welcome indeed. This is just one of the Scottish Government’s social wage commitments to the people of Scotland – on top of the council tax freeze, the budget will also continue to deliver free tuition, concessionary travel, free prescriptions, free eye tests and free personal care.

“While the Tory government at Westminster last week set out plans to continue their attack on the poor with a benefit freeze that will hit 600,000 working families in Scotland, the Scottish Government is doing the best it can with the powers we currently have to protect family budgets. Families across the country are benefiting from the freeze in council tax, while a further 537,730 people in low income households are being protected from Westminster’s wrongheaded decision to scrap Council Tax Benefit.

“With further powers to create jobs and tackle inequality, we could do even more – and that is why these powers must be delivered to Scotland.” 

Mr Swinney set out the following actions to parliament:
To make Scotland a more prosperous country the budget will:
• Secure £4.5 billion of infrastructure investment in 2015-16
• Support £330 million of further capital investment in our Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme through NPD funding
• Provide £140 million to deliver 2 new college campuses through the NPD pipeline
• Continue to deliver the most competitive business tax environment in the UK
• Invest £16.6 million in 2015-16 to further take forward recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce
To tackle inequalities the budget will:
• Drive investment in affordable housing of over £390 million to deliver 6000 affordable homes and £125 million of additional financial support for the housing sector.
• Invest over £300 million over two years in extending child care to 600 hours for all 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds.
• Provide additional support for looked after children
• Provide £81 million to mitigate against Wesminster’s welfare reform including the ‘Bedroom Tax’
• Maintain a council tax freeze across Scotland
• Continue the Scottish Government’s social wage commitments including free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free personal care
To protect and reform Public Services the budget will:
• Increase the health budget to over £12 billion with a funding increase of £288 million
• Invest over £170 million in 2015-16 to help drive integration of adult health and social care
• Support 1000 additional police officers
• Protect the Local Government budget
• Maintain a Scottish living wage for public sector workers covered by public sector pay policy
• Continue the commitment to no compulsory redundancies.