The Scottish Budget is designed to promote a more prosperous Scotland, not further burden those on low incomes, Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney said ahead of this week’s Stage 3 Budget Bill debate (Wednesday, 24 February).
Mr Swinney has already revealed plans to deliver a pay rise for up to 51,400 of the lowest paid workers, including many in the public sector, and protect family budgets with the continuation of the Council Tax freeze, as well as refusing to increase Income Tax.
And as he prepared for the final round in discussions on the Budget, the Deputy First Minister said the plans will lead to growth for Scotland’s economy.
Mr Swinney said:
“This Government is about looking after those who need support, growing a sustainable economy and ensuring the two go hand in hand – prosperity, not austerity.
“In the face of further constraints on the Budget available to us, we have prioritised economic growth and public sector reform, protecting household incomes and ensuring our public services are supported in the years ahead.
“Thousands of Scotland’s lowest earning public sector workers will be better off thanks to the uprating of the living wage, and an uplift of £400 for those covered by public sector pay policy and earning £22,000 or less.
“We won’t add to the tax burden of those workers who help to form the backbone of our communities – the newly qualified nurses, newly qualified teachers, police officers, firefighters, postmen, bus drivers, charity workers, shop workers, and hotel workers – and are among the lowest paid.
“Our health budget will benefit with an unprecedented budget of close to £13bn, thanks to a £500m rise, and we are allocating £250m to help radically reform health and social care. This investment will allow councils to commission adult social care from independent and voluntary sector providers on the basis that all social care staff are paid the living wage of £8.25 an hour – giving up to 40,000 people, mainly women, doing some of the most valuable work in Scotland a pay rise. We will invest in education and ensure that our children continue to receive the same amount of teacher time.
“We are also protecting the frontline policing budget and continuing to fund the Council Tax freeze which protects the pockets of householders while ensuring local authorities can still provide essential services.”