Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Scots budget faces uphill battle

Scottish Parliament building
Parliament will be asked to approve the 33bn budget on Wednesday

Scottish ministers are facing an uphill battle to pass their budget, after Labour and the Liberal Democrats signalled they would vote against it.

The minority government will now have to rely on support from the Tories and the two Green MSPs to pass the 33bn spending plans for 2009-10.

Parliament will be asked to approve the budget in a crunch vote on Wednesday.

The Scottish Parliament's presiding officer will use his casting vote against it in the event of a tie.

Alex Fergusson has privately told party whips he would follow convention and opt for the status quo, if such a situation arose.

Securing support

Despite holding last-minute negotiations with rival parties, talks between Labour and Finance Secretary John Swinney broke down.

The party, which wanted changes including more money for apprenticeships, said the concessions offered by the government were not enough.

The Liberal Democrats' call for a 2p income tax cut has already been rejected by ministers.

The Greens have asked for a 100m-a-year free home insulation scheme, although Mr Swinney has offered a lower-price pilot scheme.

It it thought the Conservatives, whose list of demands includes more action on hospital infections and a town centre regeneration fund, will vote for the budget.

Ministers hope they can secure support from independent MSP Margo Macdonald.

The government said its budget would support thousands of jobs and bring forward 230m worth of transport, health and education projects to get the economy moving again.

Rejecting the spending plans would cost Scotland 1.8bn of spending in 2009-10, said the government, under emergency measures allowing ministers to spend at the latest version of the current year's budget.

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