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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK

UK: Scotland

Education boost in Scottish 'budget'

Scotland's first devolved 'budget' will be delivered here

Watch the spending plans announcement in BBC Scotland's Holyrood Live. Click here at 1430BST.

Finance Minister Jack McConnell is announcing an extra £80m for education in Scotland when he outlines his public spending plans for the first time in the devolved parliament.

Brian Taylor reports: "Sam Galbraith offered to act as arbitrator"
The additional spending was agreed in the coalition deal drawn up by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Spending plans are generally closely guarded, but Mr McConnell has been even more cautious than usual following claims that lobbyists had access to inside information.

BBC Scotland's David Porter speaks to Mr Hague in Blackpool
Conservative leader William Hague has entered the "Lobbygate" controversy by saying the Scottish Parliament has not had a good start and it must put its house in order.

As Mr McConnell prepared to make his announcement, Education Minister Sam Galbraith addressed another schools concern as he faced questions over the teachers' pay dispute.

Stonewalled pressure

He told the parliament's education committee that he was ready to arbitrate if the two sides approached him.

But he made clear he wanted them to find a solution to this year's pay dispute - while a longer-term structure for teachers' salaries is investigated.

Mr Galbraith repeatedly stonewalled opposition pressure to announce further extra funding to smooth a deal.

[ image: Jack McConnell:
Jack McConnell: "Business-like expenditure statement"
Mr McConnell's statement will cover the present year, but will also outline priorities for the two following years.

Key aims for the Scottish Executive include improving hospital waiting times, tackling drugs and boosting public transport.

But other budgets such as roads could come under pressure.

The Scottish National Party says the Scottish budget has been underspent in recent years. It also accused ministers of manipulating the figures.

But the executive insists a slight underspend is standard practice.

On Sunday, in the wake of allegations about lobbyists having prior knowledge of the budget, Mr McConnell told the BBC the guiding principles behind his plans had been known for some time.

Public domain

He told the Holyrood programme: "This information about the education money being over two years has been in the public domain since May.

"The information about the comprehensive spending review being a three-year process, in which we are in the first year at the moment, has been in the public domain since last year.

"I'm astonished to see what has been written about what I think will be revealed on Wednesday."

He added: "It is not a budget. A budget is what the chancellor does at a UK level. It is an expenditure statement that will concentrate primarily on the proposals for a budget bill for next year but will also look at the remaining two years of the CSR."

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