Holyrood debate

Smith says budget cuts undermine growth claims

Liz Smith: never seen a worse reaction to a budget

Shona Robison was today accused of failing to deliver a budget that would stimulate economic growth or tackle under performing public services.

In a stage one debate on the budget in the Scottish parliament, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MSPs poured scorn on the Finance Secretary’s claim that the actions announced in the 19 December statement, including tax rises on middle earners, would help create a fairer and growing economy.

Ms Robison told MSPs that ministers’ hands had been tied by cuts to the capital budgets imposed by Westminster and said her opponents had failed to say how they would account for the shortfall.

It was not enough to stem a torrent of criticism. Remarking on criticism from business and academia, Conservative party finance spokeswoman Liz Smith said she had “never seen a worse reaction, almost on a daily basis, to the Scottish budget”.

She said Holyrood’s finance committee had raised concerns about the fiscal situation.

“I have heard several ministers say economic growth is a priority. If it was, why on earth would you impose substantial cuts to the economy portfolio of 8.3% in real terms?” asked Ms Smith.

“Why would you strip funding to the Scottish Funding Council by £140m? Why would you cut the affordable homes budget? Why would you cut the employment and enterprise budgets by 24.2% and 16.7% respectively? And the Scottish National Investment Bank by 29.2%?”

She asked if the Cabinet Secretary would agree with the view of Stirling professor David Bell that “it is not clear that this budget has been designed with growth as a primary objective.”

Ms Smith said the Tories were “absolutely appalled by the lack of concerns the Scottish government has towards Scottish businesses and will not pass on the 75% rates relief [applicable in England].”

Michael Marra for Labour, described the budget as “chaotic and incompetent” adding that “despite the rhetoric it does nothing for economic growth.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats will stand up for a growing and thriving economy. An economy which creates prosperity and lifts people out of poverty. An economy which generates the tax revenue we need to invest in lifting up Scottish education, rescuing the NHS and building more warm homes.

“It is painfully clear that this government is out of touch and out of ideas.”

All three parties said they will vote against the budget.

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