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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 06:13 GMT
Government warns budget critics
Council tax bill
Ministers said council tax would rise if the budget plans fell
The Scottish Government has warned MSPs that failing to pass the budget would put public services in jeopardy.

The 30bn spending plans narrowly passed their first parliamentary hurdle, with the support of the Tories and independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

Labour and the Lib Dems voted against the budget, while the Greens abstained.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said ministers were considering parliament demands to increase police recruitment and speed up business rate cuts.

The spending plans are currently going through the second stage of scrutiny, ahead of a final, crunch vote at Holyrood.

'Potentially disastrous'

Mr Swinney said the plans would deliver a council tax freeze, boost the voluntary sector and the economy and deliver "vital" infrastructure projects.

"Council tax increases would be inevitable if the budget did not pass," he said.

It was now incumbent on parliament, Mr Swinney argued, to recognise that it was essential to pass the Budget Bill.

"Failure to do so would be to put in jeopardy public services and the Scottish economy," he said.

He said the local government budget was set to grow from 10.6bn in 2007-08 to 11.1bn in 2008-09, an increase of 486m.

Labour claimed ministers had put the tax freeze and business rate cuts for small firms ahead of everything else, while the Liberal Democrats said the budget plans had "potentially disastrous" implications for the economy.

'No bartering'

Iain Gray, Labour's finance spokesman, said: "The ball is in the SNP's court with their budget.

"They could accept the reasonable proposals about greater security for the vulnerable and better skills training for Scotland's young people and perhaps attract some cross-party support.

"Alternatively they can continue to exclusively deal with the Tories."

He said the budget process should be about investing in Scotland's future, not about "bartering deals" to get it through the parliament.

The Conservatives warned that their support at the first hurdle did not guarantee backing for the final bill.


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