Swinney outlines further budget cuts of £615m

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has set out “savings” of £615 million as he published his emergency budget review.

Mr Swinney said the measures are necessary to tackle rising inflation and economic uncertainty.

The sum includes £400 million of spending “reprioritisation” within the health and social care portfolio in order to support a pay offer for staff.

The emergency budget review was first announced in early September, when additional savings of £500 million were set out.

Cabinet meeting
A UK fiscal statement is due from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on November 17 (Victoria Jones/PA)

Despite the UK Government’s fiscal statement being due on November 17, Mr Swinney said he would “wait no longer” to outline his own proposals.

Changes to the Scottish Government’s tax rates will only be contemplated after this date, Mr Swinney said.

The acting Finance Secretary said inflation meant the Scottish Government’s budget is now worth £1.7 billion less than when it was first published in December.

He told MSPs: “Taken together, these decisions and those already set out in September, total almost £1.2 billion.

“They are not decisions we would wish to make, but in the absence of additional funding from the UK Government they are decisions we are compelled to make.

“They ensure a path to a balanced budget, whilst also prioritising fair public sector pay offers and recognising that this is critical to the delivery of key public services.”

In the budget review document, £116 million of Covid-related costs was allocated for “reprioritisation” within the health and social care portfolio.

A further £70 million was identified from “social care and National Care Service reprofiling”, with £38 million earmarked from mental health funding.

Economic recovery in Scotland
Liz Smith questioned spending on the National Care Service (Fraser Bremner/PA)

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said she acknowledged the “difficult circumstances” around the Scottish Government’s budget.

She asked him: “Does he really think that now is the appropriate time for his Government to be proceeding with the National Care Service Bill, which has drawn so much criticism from virtually every stakeholder and which Audit Scotland is predicting to be costing £1.3 billion?”

The Deputy First Minister said it is necessary to reform the care system.

He said: “What would be the biggest single thing that would help productivity in this country is if we have a sensible approach to population growth and migration.

“That has been abruptly halted for us by the total folly of Brexit.”

Angus Robertson
Labour claimed Angus Robertson ‘has travelled to eight countries in as many months’ (PA)

Labour’s Daniel Johnson said “chaos” from the UK Government had made the situation more difficult.

He also hit out at External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson’s recent trips abroad.

Mr Johnson said: “I note that the Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs has travelled to eight countries in as many months, clocking up almost 22,000 air miles.

“What cost control measures are being applied to the expenditures of members of the Government and civil servants?”

Mr Swinney said the Government is committed to transparency.

He added: “We can’t be insular, we’ve got to be in contact with the rest of the world.”