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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 20:40 GMT
Budget date comes under fire
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: "An abuse of democracy"
A political row has erupted over Gordon Brown's decision to delay his Budget until next month.

The Scottish National Party attacked the chancellor for postponing the announcement.

Mr Brown revealed on Wednesday that the Budget, which is usually held in March, would take place on 9 April.

There has been speculation that the timing was due to possible conflict in the Gulf.

That was denied by the Treasury, which also refuted suggestions that the Budget had been delayed.

A spokeswoman said it had been held in April before and that this was not unusual.

'Balance of coverage'

However, the decision means that the Budget will come during the campaign for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local council elections on 1 May.

The SNP's Westminster leader Alex Salmond said it was "totally unacceptable" to have such a major government announcement during an election campaign.

Mr Salmond claimed it was "virtually improper" to hold the Budget in April.

He told BBC Scotland: "It is an abuse of democracy and secondly I think there'll be major questions to be asked about the balance of coverage for any such event.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown's Budget will take place in April
"If the Treasury mandarins haven't thought of such things in their calculation of timings for the Budget they had better start thinking about it.

"I find it impossible not to believe that Gordon Brown has thought about it and therefore I have to conclude it is an example of breathtaking arrogance."

Tory MSP Phil Gallie claimed the chancellor was running scared.

He said: "It's no surprise that Brown has postponed this bad-news budget.

"His policy of tax and waste has failed and he now has a massive black hole in Britain's finances which he is clearly having trouble filling.

'Unwise decision'

"The so-called iron chancellor is certainly now in the advanced stages of rusting."

Michael Moore MP, deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and chairman of the party's election campaign, said the decision appeared flawed.

He said: "Who knows whether this will be a popular budget or an unpopular one - that doesn't matter.

"What matters is that it is a very unwise decision to move the Budget from the usual March date to a date in the middle of the Scottish and Welsh election campaign."

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