Scottish ministers have warned of budget cuts ahead
Looming public spending cuts in Scotland will be the worst for decades, an SNP minister has warned.
Fergus Ewing said all public services would have to reduce costs and compete for increasingly tight resources.
The community safety minister's warning came a week before the Scottish Government is due to publish its draft budget for next year.
Mr Ewing gave his assessment during a Holyrood debate on funding for Scottish fire services.
The Scottish Government said Westminster efficiency savings would cut £500m off the Holyrood budget next year, although Labour has insisted the pot of cash will see a 1.3% real terms increase.
Mr Ewing told MSPs: "We are now facing public expenditure cuts on a scale not experienced for decades.
"All areas of the public sector will have less money to spend. Not just next year, but probably for several years to come."
The issue again raised its head during first minister's questions, when Alex Salmond pledged his government's forthcoming budget for 2010-11 would protect key public services.
He said of the UK budget: "Every credible forecaster is now predicting, based on an analysis of that budget, substantial reductions in available public spending over the medium term."
But Labour MSP Andy Kerr, a former Scottish finance minister, called on Mr Salmond to focus on "facts not the fiction".
"Most long-term forecast tend to be incredibly ill-placed," he said, adding: "Let's do what we should do in this chamber and look at the budgets we do have before us."