Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Sunday, 26 April 2009 15:52 UK

Budget 'pressure' on SNP policies

Chancelllor holding famous red box
The chancellor's budget has caused a row over efficiency savings

Budget pressures could end flagship Scottish Government policies such as the council tax freeze and free prescriptions, experts have warned.

Holyrood ministers are now facing stark choices as Scotland enters uncharted waters, according to a report by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions.

Scottish ministers said Westminster should scrap ID cards and the replacement for Trident to save cash.

They said the Scottish Government had a demanding efficiency drive already.

The report by the CPPR, which is run by the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, came amid a clash between the Scottish and UK governments.

Holyrood ministers claims that Chancellor Alistair Darling's Budget will cause £500m of cuts north of the border next year, as part of a Treasury drive for efficiency savings.

It is vital the SNP Scottish Government, rather than whinge and moan, comes up with a concrete plan of action
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Conservative leader

The report's findings suggested a range of measures to help balance the books, including increasing council tax and reintroducing bridge tolls and prescription charges.

"Overall, the Scottish Government now faces, to a far greater degree than ever before, some stark choices," the report stated.

It added: "The impending reductions in the Scottish Budget are on a scale hitherto unimagined by the Scottish Government or parliament.

"They will require a new way of addressing the Budget.

"Both politicians and civil servants are being faced with the need to make difficult decisions over a Budget that is likely to experience sustained falls in real terms."

A spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said his government's own efficiency drive, which would see cash savings re-invested in Scottish public services, had allowed the SNP to implement progressive policies such as the council tax freeze and removal of business rates.

'Stimulus package'

"The UK Government's catastrophic financial failure underlines the need for Scotland to have responsibility to run its own affairs and to have the ability to take the decisions needed to reflate our economy, contribute to recovery, and overcome the Downing Street downturn," the spokesman said.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said the UK Government had invested £50bn to save major banks - more than the total annual Scottish budget - while the country had benefited from a £2bn financial stimulus package.

"It is ridiculous to think Scotland should not play its part in rebalancing the budget at a time like this," said Mr Gray.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie added: "Nobody asked for this to happen but happen it has, thanks to Labour's decade of debt.

"Therefore it is vital the SNP Scottish Government, rather than whinge and moan, comes up with a concrete plan of action."

Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said Mr Salmond needed to start giving "straight answers" on how the UK Budget would affect Scotland.

"The first minister must explain why, in such difficult economic times, his government has pushed through policies such as free school meals for rich kids," said Mr Scott.



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