Cuts due as Swinney finds £500m for pay rises
Interim Finance Secretary John Swinney has warned of “difficult choices” over public services in order to settle pay rises.
Mr Swinney told MSPs that shuffling the budget would see £500 million re-allocated towards public sector wage claims for council employees, train drivers, the police and others which will cost £700m.
NHS workers and teachers are the latest to threaten industrial action, while inflation is eroding the budget’s ability to meet existing commitments.
Mr Swinney said: “In all of my experience now, and during my previous tenure as finance secretary, there has never been a time of greater pressure on the public finances.”
Swinney told MSPs: “Difficult choices must be made. There is no unallocated cash. There is no reserve that has not been utilised.
“Every penny more on one policy is a penny less on another policy. I have therefore written to the finance committee setting out around £500 million in reductions in planned spending and forecasting that we have made in recent weeks.”
The education budget has been cut by £42.7m while £37m has been trimmed from concessionary fares, mitigated by savings coming from fewer journeys being subsidised.
Opposition parties criticised SNP ministers for leaving the £20 million budget for an independence referendum untouched.
Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative local government spokesman, said: “No matter how deep the cuts bite, the SNP will always safeguard spending on their pet obsession — a divisive constitutional vote that most Scots don’t even want.”