Speaking ahead of the presentation of the Scottish Budget on Wednesday, SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney has pledged to continue Scotland's council tax freeze for the next two years and work to protect Scottish jobs.

Mr Swinney said the Budget was the "the most challenging in history of devolution" as a consequence of the massive cuts imposed on Scotland by the UK Government who are wrestling with the record deficit left behind by Labour.

The finance secretary claimed that the cuts, two thirds of which were the fault of the last UK Labour government, were too fast and too severe.  He also contrasted Labour group leader Iain Gray's calls for an increase in council taxes with the SNP's pledge to provide funding for a further freeze.

Mr Swinney also insisted that Scotland could not afford to continue to cede economic control to Westminster.

Mr Swinney said:

“On Wednesday I will outline the SNP Government’s budget for next year.

It is the most challenging budget I have yet had to present – indeed, it is the most challenging budget in the history of devolution.  No-one is under any illusions about the scale of the cuts which are being imposed on us by the UK Government.
Two-thirds of those cuts are the legacy of the previous Labour administration, while the remaining third is the result of the actions of the Tory-Liberal Westminster Government which is cutting too far and too fast.
That cuts agenda threatens a Scottish economic recovery which, between April and June this year, saw the strongest GDP growth of any major world economy bar Germany, largely driven by the construction sector. But Scotland’s recovery remains fragile.
Therefore, we will do everything within the powers we currently have to safeguard that recovery, and to protect jobs and household incomes across Scotland from the worst impact of those Westminster cuts.
The scale of the challenge we face was made clear last month when Chancellor George Osborne announced his Comprehensive Spending Review, which cuts Scotland’s budget by £1.3 billion next year.
Hard choices will need to be made – but it can be easier for all who live here and cohesion maintained within our communities by developing a “social contract” with the people of Scotland.
Council tax soared massively in previous years, under both Labour and the Tories, which is why the SNP took the decision when we came to office in 2007 to freeze the Council Tax across Scotland.
Thanks to our partnership with local councils, that freeze has now been delivered for three years running – and has brought much-needed relief to households in every part of the country.
If that help with household bills was a welcome boost in better times, it has become absolutely essential in the current economic climate.
Labour leader Iain Gray has said he thinks council tax bills should rise, just as people across Scotland are having to deal with pay restraint and rising household bills looming through a rise in VAT.

We disagree – that’s why we have said we want to continue the council tax freeze for the next two years.
The council tax freeze, along with other measures such as scrapping prescription charges, will make the pay restraint that is necessary fairer and more acceptable. And that restraint will enable us to protect employment, by maximising the resources available to invest in front line services and economic recovery.
Salaries account for approximately 55 per cent of Scottish Government revenue spending. Pay restraint can save nearly £300 million in the budget – protecting some 10,000 jobs in Scotland next year.
In return for an understanding that pay restraint is required, we can relieve pressure that people face with their household bills. That will enable us to preserve jobs, and is the essence of the Scottish social contract that we seek in these difficult times.
As well as pay restraint, other measures such as reducing senior civil service costs and removing bonuses will also be needed.
Amid the tough choices which this week’s budget will outline, one thing above all is crystal clear.
The financial damage inflicted on Scotland by the UK Government means that we literally cannot afford to cede economic control to Westminster.
There is no point in having a pocket money parliament when the pocket money runs out.
And the next age of self-government must see Scotland take charge of its own future, with independence and financial responsibility.
That way – with the economic powers other nations take for granted – we can take decisions in Scotland, for Scotland, and develop a growth strategy as the only alternative to a decade or more of Westminster-imposed cuts.”


# Robert Louis 2010-11-15 07:57
QUOTE : "..There is no point in having a pocket money parliament when the pocket money runs out.

And the next age of self-government must see Scotland take charge of its own future, with independence and financial responsibility.

That way – with the economic powers other nations take for granted – we can take decisions in Scotland, for Scotland, and develop a growth strategy as the only alternative to a decade or more of Westminster-imposed cuts.”

Well said Mr. Swinney.

It is absurd, and an affront to democracy that Scotland still has no full control over our own finances or economy.

Labour want to keep it that way. Labour wants Scotland tied to the choices made by the Tories in London.

The elections in May will be critical. Either vote SNP for well run fiscal management, with greater control of the Scottish economy to meet the needs of Scots, or vote Labour for huge tax rises.

Simple, really.
# snowthistle 2010-11-15 09:11
Slightly off topic, but does anyone know how the Calman Commission arrived at the figure of 35%? How did they decide that 100% responsibility is wrong and 35% responsibility is right?
I know I sound flippant but it is a serious question.
# colin8652 2010-11-15 09:21
35% was of course chosen as it is a meaningless useless figure that ensures we are still subservient to mother Westminster.
# snowthistle 2010-11-15 10:01
I've sent an email to the Scottish Office to ask how they arrived at 35% as being the ideal level.
# J Wil 2010-11-15 15:44
It seems obvious that the remaining 65% is retained by Westminster, but it's a good question to ask. I wonder how they would distort the answer?
# colin8652 2010-11-15 09:12
It is of course no surprise that the flawed Calman proposals are being waved about just now to try and placate those who want more fiscal responsibility within the UK. But one big problem with them is that they are based on income tax, No mention of the host of other taxes. For instance I have just done a quick bit of research this morning. Based on 2008 figures there were 2.7 million vehicles in Scotland. 84% of them were cars the rest trucks and buses.
Taking a low average of £130 per car and £500 per truck (some trucks are around (£2k to tax) a rough estimate for the amount flowing out of Scotland in vehicle excise alone is a staggering £500,840,000

Then even discounting oil revenue, there are death duties, corporate tax, income tax, alcohol duty ,tobacco duty , fuel duty, etc. etc. etc.,

I take it all the moneys from these taxes would continue to flow south and not attributed to Scotland, so when the Scottish parliament sets its income tax it would have to make up the that money by setting a higher tax rate, effectively Scotland would be taxing itself twice to raise the same
moneys, its all a con.

Or have i got it wrong and we get to keep the other tax revenues too.
# CapnAndy 2010-11-15 09:31
Colin, you're absolutely right.
I believe another large source of income is the fees charged to use Scotlands airspace. A friend in the Faroes told me that they got wise to that, and found that the Danes were charging a fortune to pass through Faroese airspace.
# rgweir 2010-11-15 12:35
The media in scotland will be working harder than they have ever done to get labour in power at holyrood.
The BBC will have had their instructions by now,so expect the propaganda to be spewing out from now till may.
# Legerwood 2010-11-15 15:33
If they are 'cutting' what about cutting the Scottish Office? LibDems would support that wouldn't they???
# J Wil 2010-11-15 15:41
Where did Jackie Bird's black eye come from? That's what I want to know! BBC Scotland's makeitup department couldn't quite camouflage it. It's not like them to flunk something like that.

Addendum: According to the Daily Record, her son kicked her in the face.

(In keeping with BBC Scotland policy, I won't disclose the full facts behind the story.)
# mato21 2010-11-15 15:47
Did you see what the Murphs ministerial car cost £107,000 as SOS
# Legerwood 2010-11-15 16:30
Yes I did. Did you see what BBC Scotland has been costing us in taxi fare? £1.2MILLION (£1600 per day!) and that does not include taxi fares claimed via personal expenses!

According to the Daily Telegraph the taxis were for ferrying guests backand forth to the studios and for transporting 'sensitive materials' - Glenn Campbell to and from home perhaps??
# J Wil 2010-11-16 09:23
BBC Scotland claimed this is normal stuff!
# mato21 2010-11-15 16:38
Yes I did Some of these revelations are going to be the death of me must stop eating and drinking (coffee) while reading. I suppose all those important Labour quests who have such long snouts expect only the best They will need time to practice their lines where better than in the back of a limo
# Scottish republic 2010-11-15 16:46
It does read as quite sobering stuff, I just hope the Labourite alkies can sober up from their cheap fire water long enough to read it.
# Seagetagrip 2010-11-15 18:09
I have been told that a yacht marina in Oban is paying £30,000 per year to the Crown Estates for nothing more than the use of the sea bed. This matter seems to have been by-passed. According to a blog by Joan MacAlpine, the Isle of Man have been collecting that revenue for themselves for years. Why are we so slow on the uptake?
# enneffess 2010-11-15 18:58
Swinney is doing the right thing here - Labour is the cause of the cuts, and he needs to keep hammering this point home.
# J Wil 2010-11-16 23:54
Newsnight (England) seems to have airbrushed Scotland out of their programmes.

They have made two references to complications with the Welsh elections, in the last few days. One about the referendum being on the same day and the latest about the publicity for the impending Royal marriage swamping the election. Not a mention of the Scottish elections on the same day.

I just wish they would make independence official.

On the lunchtime news on the subject of the royal marriage, John Sopel said William went to uni, "...in the remote town of St Andrews"!! I noticed he had been replaced at the newsdesk for the 6 o'clock news.

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