Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Scots budget passes crunch vote

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Rival parties want their budget demands treated seriously

The Scottish Government's 33bn spending plans for the next year have cleared their first hurdle.

The SNP's 2009/10 budget was passed by MSPs at the first stage of parliamentary scrutiny, with help from Labour, Tories and the Greens.

The Lib Dems voted against the plans, saying they failed to help Scotland through the financial downturn.

And opposition MSPs warned they may still vote the spending plans down if their concerns were not addressed.

The minority government's spending plans include 230m brought forward to speed up a range of transport, health and education projects.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney insisted the budget would weather the economic storm and protect nearly 5,000 jobs.

'Radical change'

He told parliament he was willing to meet rival parties to consider their demands, adding: "This budget reflects the needs of the people of Scotland, the economic challenges that we face."

The Conservatives have yet to disclose all their demands, but have asked for a week's outdoor education for pupils and an extended system for monitoring hospital infection.

The Greens want a 100m-a-year home insulation package.

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr said the government now had the opportunity to "improve" its budget, and warned Mr Swinney there were no guarantees about his party backing it in the final vote, in late January.

Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis said: "The other parties who voted for the SNP's plans can no longer credibly argue that the budget requires substantial and radical change."

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald abstained in the vote on the budget, which was passed by 107 votes to 16.

The budget will now move forward to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.

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