Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Swinney announces 'jobs' budget

The budget plans have been formally published at the Scottish Parliament

Details of the 33bn Scottish budget for the next year have been set out, including plans to support almost 4,700 jobs to weather the financial downturn.

The 2009-10 proposals include 230m brought forward to speed up transport, health and education projects.

Ministers said the plans would keep the economy moving, but opposition parties said they were inadequate.

The minority Holyrood government will need support from opposition parties to approve the spending plans.

They have been setting out their own demands in return for their support for the Budget Bill, which has been laid before parliament.

Labour wants it reshaped to target action on boosting the economy, while the Lib Dems' call for a 2p income tax cut has already been dismissed by ministers.

Scotland needs a dedicated fiscal stimulus
Jeremy Purvis
Lib Dem finance spokesman

Finance Secretary John Swinney, who has been continuing talks with opposition parties, said: "This is a budget to support economic recovery.

"As we begin to feel the full effects of the downturn, it is the choices we made 14 months ago and are intensifying now that mean tens of thousands of small businesses will pay no business rates at all from April.

"It is our foresight that put in place the resources to freeze the hated council tax, providing vital relief for hard-pressed bill payers when tough economic conditions mean they need it the most."

Part of the accelerated spending is likely to include cash for the SECC Arena in Glasgow, more work on the Fife Energy Park and improvements to the Edinburgh "bio-quarter".

Road projects include dualling the A75 from Cairntop to Barlae, in the South of Scotland, the Fochabers bypass, in Moray, and work on the A9 at Moy, Carrbridge and Bankfoot.

'Worryingly arrogant'

Transport authority SPT will also speed up the delivery of park-and-ride services between Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and Glasgow.

In health, 50m will be brought forward to deliver vital NHS projects, including new dental centres in Cumnock, Ayr, Campbeltown and Inverness and the new Foresterhill Health Centre in Aberdeen.

And 10m will be brought forward for affordable housing in 2009-10 as well as 5m to tackle fuel poverty, while 13m will be invested in colleges and universities.

Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis said the budget had changed by less than 1%, compared to the 2007 spending review.

"This is totally inadequate," he said, adding: "Scotland needs a dedicated fiscal stimulus and a particular response to the specific needs of the Scottish economy.

"Although our door remains open to the Scottish Government, so far they have been worryingly arrogant and complacent."

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr said the budget plans failed to address head-on the need for jobs and to boost the economy.

"Overall, Alex Salmond's government response to the credit crunch has been very disappointing," he said.

"Scots are looking to the Scottish Government to provide ambitious leadership to protect jobs."

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