Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Scottish budget rejected by MSPs

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Scottish budget rejected by one vote

The Scottish Government's budget for the coming year has been rejected by parliament, despite ministers making last-minute concessions.

The SNP's 33bn plans fell on the casting vote of the presiding officer after being tied at 64 votes to 64.

The government won the support of the Tories but the two Green MSPs withdrew their backing shortly before the vote.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the Budget bill would be resubmitted and a timetable was being drawn up.

Mr Salmond said: "Given the circumstances we should try again and we are prepared to do that."

He said: "We have already resubmitted it through the Budget process and recommended a timetable which will bring it to decision in mid-February if MSPs give up the first week of their February holiday, which I think would be a good idea under the circumstances."

Salmond ready to try Budget again

The first minister called on MSPs to think of the consequences of not agreeing a Budget. Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against the spending plans, saying they were inadequate to see Scotland through the economic downturn.

The Tories, who won a 60m concession for their town centre regeneration scheme initiative, backed the budget - and blamed Labour for its rejection.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald voted for the budget.

The Greens, who had demanded a 100m-a-year free home insulation scheme, could not reach agreement with ministers.

BUDGET VOTE - FOR
SNP 47
Conservatives 16
Independent 1

The government had offered a 22m pilot scheme, but even a last-minute offer to increase the pot by 11m failed to get the party on board.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie was furious about the last-minute nature of the negotiations.

He said: "After such a long period of discussing with the cabinet secretary and his colleagues a very detailed and very well worked-up set of proposals, we were left in a last-minute farce - messages flying about minutes before the budget debate, phone calls this way and that, written statements and so on.

BUDGET VOTE - AGAINST
Labour 46
Lib Dems 16
Greens 2
Presiding Officer

"At the final analysis, we took the view that not enough had been offered to make the proposal meaningful. We asked for an increase and there were too many caveats attached."

Following the rejection, Finance Secretary John Swinney told parliament: "In light of the vote that has just taken place and the serious position in which this leaves Scotland, the Scottish Government will not delay in seeking to resolve the Budget issues for next year.

"That is why I would like to give notice today that I will reintroduce the 2009-10 Budget Bill to parliament at the earliest possible opportunity and certainly within a matter of days."

Mr Swinney offered Labour assurances over helping apprentices finish their training, but this was dismissed by the party's finance spokesman Andy Kerr, who branded the budget "wholly inadequate".

parick harvie
Patrick Harvie was furious with the nature of the talks

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: "Labour's actions are grossly irresponsible and quite frankly pathetic.

"It is political posturing at its very worst and will only increase uncertainty during Labour's recession."

Dismissing the Tory attack, Labour said the budget failed to recognise the "serious nature of the current economic climate".

Mr Kerr said: "I hoped the government would stop playing games and produce a budget which would in fact protect the Scottish economy and its people. They have failed to do so."

The Lib Dems, whose call for a 2p income tax cut was earlier rejected by the Scottish Government, said they were still open to talks.

Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: "We warned the SNP that this budget was an inadequate response to the recession.

"We are ready to talk about how we can build a better budget that helps families, individuals and businesses."

If the new financial year begins in April without a budget being passed, the government would be allowed to spend the latest version of the current year's budget.

But ministers said this would hit Scotland with a 1.8bn spending cut.

Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson said it was an established convention for someone in his position to vote for the "status quo".

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SEE ALSO
Q&A: Scottish budget rejection
28 Jan 09 |  Scotland
Scots budget faces uphill battle
27 Jan 09 |  Scotland
SNP ready to listen over budget
25 Jan 09 |  Scotland
Scots budget passes crunch vote
14 Jan 09 |  Scotland
Swinney announces 'jobs' budget
09 Jan 09 |  Scotland

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