Scottish budget: what it means for the Highlands and Islands

The Scottish budget for the next year has been passed by the Scottish Parliament. Here’s what the SNP budget means for the Highlands, Islands and Northern Isles.

£400 million more for our NHS and more money direct to schools

The Tory government at Westminster has cut the budget available for public services in Scotland by half a billion over the next two years. By choosing a fairer path on taxation we are protecting Scotland’s cherished public services.

The budget will ensure:

  • record health spending of over £13.1 billion, with NHS Highlands receiving over £604 million, NHS Western Isles receiving £73 million in the next financial year. NHS Orkney’s budget will go up to £47.7 million and NHS Shetland’s will increase to £48.7 million. NHS Grampian’s budget will go up to £920.6 million;
  • over £4 million going direct to schools in the Highlands to tackle the attainment gap between pupils from the least and most wealthy backgrounds. A further £290,000 will go to schools in the Western Isles and schools in the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands will share £466,080 to for this too. In Argyll and Bute £1.4 million will go direct to schools and £1.3 million in Moray;
  • protection for the frontline police budget and ensuring our emergency services keep VAT savings;
  • an increase in day to day spending on local council services across the Highlands, islands and Northern Isles; and
  • investment of almost a quarter of a billion in our plan to near double provision of childcare and early years education.

Seven in ten income taxpayers paying less than they are paying this year

Changes to Income Tax will make Scotland the fairest taxed part of the UK, with the majority of taxpayers paying less than if they lived elsewhere in the UK. And compared to last year, everyone earning less than £33,000 will pay less.

Investing in schools and hospitals across the Highlands, Islands and Northern Isles

Investment will support:

  • continued construction of new rural hospital facility in Orkney;
  • construction of Dunoon Primary, Campbelltown Grammar and Oban High School in the Argyll and Bute area;
  • construction of Inverness High School and the start of construction of the new school in Alness;
  • plans for a new Lossiemouth High School in Moray;
  • taking forward HMP Highland and Inverness Justice Centre;
  • funding for transport infrastructure including further improvements to the A9 and improvements to the route between Aberdeen and Inverness; and on the Highland Main Line between Inverness and Perth;
  • continue funding for the Rural and Islands Housing Funds; and
  • the launch of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to help address infrastructure needs in rural areas.

An end to the one per cent public sector pay cap

Next year we will deliver a minimum 3 per cent pay rise for public servants earning less than £36,500 – 75 per cent of public sector workers. For those earning more than £36,500 will receive a 2 per cent rise and a cash cap will be put in place on increases for those earning more than £80,000.

New investment to ensure Scotland is the best place to do business and invest

To grow the economy across the North of Scotland, we will:

  • continue to invest in the Inverness City Region Deal;
  • the Highlands and Islands Enterprise budget of £71 million will provide leadership and support inclusive growth and business development across the region;
  • we will support our tourism industry with a £6 million infrastructure fund, benefitting three sites on Skye and in Orkney; 
  • invest an extra £100 million to deliver the best business rates package in UK;
  • protection of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on Hebrides Ferry Services routes, and a reduction in fares on ferry services to Orkney and Shetland;
  • continued funding for Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) to maintain 11 airports and continued funding for the Air Discount Scheme and lifeline air service to Barra;
  • increase investment in business research and development by 70 per cent;
  • set aside £340 million for a National Investment Bank with a new £150 million Building Scotland Fund; and
  • begin procurement of the £600 million programme to deliver superfast broadband to all homes and premises.

Maintaining the social contract, ensuring Scottish taxpayers get the best deal anywhere in the UK

With the cost of living rising, our commitment to a social contract with the people of Scotland is more important than ever. This budget will continue to fully fund an NHS free at the point of need; maintain free university tuition; and free personal and nursing care.

To strengthen the social contract this budget will:

  • implement Frank’s Law, providing free personal care to those who need it;
  • increase Carers Allowance;
  • provide free access to sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities;
  • and continue to provide all babies with a Baby Box of essential items for their first weeks and months.

New action to fight poverty and inequality

To build a fairer Scotland, this budget will:

  • invest £756 million towards our pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes in this Parliamentary term;
  • begin investment of the £50 million End Homelessness Together Fund;
  • begin investment of the £50 million Child Poverty Fund; and
  • maintaining £100 million a year investment to mitigate welfare cuts, including fully mitigating the Bedroom Tax.