Announcing Scotland’s spending plans for the next three years, the SNP Finance Secretary said his priorities are to accelerate economic recovery, to deliver public sector reform and to protect the social wage through a continued council tax freeze.
Mr Swinney signaled a major investment in capital projects to protect jobs and boost the economy, over £800 million for the NHS and a shift toward preventing some of Scotland’s problems by investing in our youngest children, preventing re-offending and supporting our elderly to stay in their communities.
Describing spending plans for Scotland as “uniquely challenging” Mr Swinney said he hoped that with the trust of the people of Scotland this could also be a “uniquely hopeful moment” as he confirmed £50 million of investment in early years and a £62 million investment in Scotland’s broadband technology.
He also confirmed that to protect spending the SNP will introduce a levy on large alcohol and tobacco retailers and reform business rates for empty properties to bring our high streets back into use.
Mr Swinney also paid tribute to those public sector workers who face the second year of a pay freeze in order to protect jobs and public services. Confirming a continued council tax freeze, free prescriptions and increasing the minimum wage paid to Government and NHS employees to £7.20 an hour he said:
“I wish, today, to express my gratitude again to the many thousands of public sector workers whose commitment to their valuable work has continued in spite of tight settlements and actions to restrain pay. Our objective is to protect public sector employment to support economic recovery.”
The Spending Review includes:
- A focus on accelerating economic recovery to create jobs by switching over three quarters of a billion pounds from resource spending to support capital projects up to 2014-15;
- Investment in the low carbon economy to cut emissions and create new jobs;
- Implementing a shift to preventative spending with specific funding of 500 million pounds over the next three years to encourage joint working across the public sector in adult social care, early years and tackling re-offending;
- Passing on in full to the NHS in Scotland the Barnett consequentials from increases in UK health spending;
- Freezing basic pay for 2012-13, to protect employment and continue the policy of no compulsory redundancies for those areas under direct Ministerial control, while paying the uprated Scottish Living Wage of 7.20 pounds an hour and ensuring that any employee earning less than 21,000 pounds continues to receive at least a 250 pounds rise. Ministers will also be freezing their own pay in 2012-13 for the fourth year running;
- Delivering 125,000 modern apprenticeships and use public procurement as a lever for job creation by ensuring that major public contracts deliver new training and apprenticeship opportunities;
- Introducing a new public health levy to tackle the cost problems associated with alcohol and tobacco through a business rates supplement paid by large retailers of both tobacco and alcohol from April 2012;