Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

SNP 'confident' on Scots budget

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond put forward government views

The Scottish Government has said it was "very confident" of passing its budget second time round, after a day of meetings with opposition parties.

The comments came just 24 hours after Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens combined to vote down the 33bn spending plans for the coming year.

Labour and the Lib Dems have demanded concessions on apprenticeships and the economy, in return for their support.

Ministers are also aiming to fast-track the budget through parliament.

The Scottish Government's tone was more measured than earlier heated exchanges at first minister's question time, where Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray accused Alex Salmond of approaching the Scottish budget with "reckless brinkmanship and arrogance".

A coming together by Labour and the SNP on apprenticeships will be for the benefit of unemployed young people
Iain Gray
Scottish Labour leader
Hitting back, the first minister told the chamber that Labour had put its own "narrow interests" ahead of jobs.

The minority SNP administration is hoping to get the re-introduced Budget Bill passed by MSPs on 11 February - but has raised the prospect of speeding up the process even further.

And following a series of meetings with the Holyrood parties, a spokesman for the first minister said: "We are extremely confident that a budget will be passed in the best interests of Scotland."

Labour has asked for 15,600 new apprenticeships over two years, including the possibility of extending the policy to three years, at an overall cost of between 45m-90m.

Mr Gray said it was a straightforward proposal, adding: "A coming together by Labour and the SNP on apprenticeships will be for the benefit of unemployed young people."

The Scottish Government's budget was rejected by one vote

Meanwhile, Mr Scott conceded his demand for a 2p income tax cut did not have enough parliamentary support, but said he would continue to argue for the policy.

He has put forward "major proposals" for an economic recovery plan, telling BBC Scotland: "We've made clear all the way through the budget process that our principal concern is the economic situation the country is in."

The Scottish Government said it would resign if the budget failed a second time, which would lead to a snap election if parliament found itself unable to establish a new administration.

Tory leader Annabel Goldie, whose party backed the budget on Wednesday, along with Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, said: "I am glad that Labour and the Lib Dems seem to have come to their senses."

The vote on the 2009-10 budget was tied at 64-64. It then fell on the casting vote of Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson, who is required by convention to support the status quo.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie is also continuing budget talks with ministers.

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