Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Wednesday, 6 February 2008

MSPs agree to pass Scots budget

John Swinney and Alex Salmond
Mr Swinney said the budget was for all of Scotland

The Scottish Government's budget has been passed with Conservative support, after ministers made several last-minute concessions.

The SNP's 30bn plans went through after the minority administration agreed to boost business rate cuts and cash for bus operators.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all abstained in the crunch vote at the Scottish Parliament.

The government also won the support of independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

Ministers also agreed to boost police recruitment, give more cash to fight climate change and award capital city status funding to Edinburgh.

Labour and the Lib Dems hit out at an earlier threat by First Minister Alex Salmond to quit if the budget failed.

Mr Swinney indeed has done a wonderful job buying off the Tories
Tavish Scott
Liberal Democrat finance spokesman

The budget was passed by 64 votes to one, with 60 abstentions.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said his government had worked hard to achieve consensus, telling parliament: "This is a budget for all of Scotland, proposed by a government that provides leadership for all of Scotland, and considered by a parliament that must speak for all of Scotland.

"This budget will create a stronger, more confident and prosperous nation - and that is what the people of Scotland deserve."

The spending plans - which will also offer cash to local authorities to freeze council tax - will now see a total of 1,000 new police officers recruited by March 2011 - an increase of 500 - and an extra 4.3m will be pumped into the Climate Challenge Fund.

Mr Swinney also announced that, from April next year, business rates would be abolished for up to 120,000 small businesses and a further 30,000 would see rate cuts of between 25% and 50%.

Funding to protect bus fares and services, he said, would also receive an extra 4m in 2008-09.

'Landmark strop'

But Labour's finance spokesman, Iain Gray, said councils had not been given enough cash to provide vital services, adding that his party would continue to press for the budget to be directed to "social justice".

He told MSPs of the "unedifying pantomime of a first minister threatening resignation from behind the safety of deals already done".

"An act of vacuous bravado which sums up his government's approach not just to the budget, but to government in general," he said.

Alex Salmond
Rival parties dismissed Mr Salmond's resignation threat

Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat finance spokesman, branded the spending plans a "Con-Nat budget", while describing Mr Salmond's resignation threat a "landmark strop".

Mr Scott said: "Mr Swinney indeed has done a wonderful job buying off the Tories and buying them on the cheap," he said.

"It's akin to Northern Rock. Mr Swinney has done a Darling and nationalised a private entity in all but a different name."

The Tories claimed credit for several of the concessions, including those on business rate cuts and police numbers - as well as a national drug strategy.

The party's finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said: "Today is historic - not because of what (the SNP) has done, but because it marks the final humiliation of the Scottish Labour Party.

"A year ago they were a party of government. Today they are not even fit to be called a party of opposition."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the budget had been improved, but not enough, adding: "There are progressive proposals within it which we welcome, but the SNP still put road-building ahead of public transport."

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How the budget was approved


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