Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Scots budget concessions on offer

View of edinburgh

By Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website.

The minority Scottish government has unveiled a series of last-minute measures to win enough opposition support to pass its £30bn, 2010-11 budget.

Here is a look at what Finance Secretary John Swinney announced:

BUDGET REVIEW

Ministers agreed to a Conservative demand for an independent budget review, to provide an objective assessment of the choices the government will have to face up to amid the public spending squeeze.

The review, to be overseen by three senior public and private sector experts, will provide spending advice to government and parliament and will report by the end of July.

OPENNESS ON SPENDING

With a high level of interest in how taxpayers' cash is being spent, ministers will publish online all items of spending above £25,000.

Mr Swinney said this scheme, another Tory demand, would come into force in April and operate on a monthly basis after that.

PUBLIC SECTOR PAY

With more than 60% of the Scottish budget going on salaries, Mr Swinney said serious constraints on the public sector wage bill were vital, while protecting those on the lowest incomes.

In response to Lib Dem calls, senior civil servants will have their pay frozen, while next year's government pay bill will fall by 5.5%.

Ministers have frozen their own pay, while quango bosses have been asked to waive their bonuses.

The government has also decided to restrict "multi-year" pay deals, meaning public sector bodies will have to negotiate new salary deals during 2011-12.

Further details will emerge when the senior salaries review body reports.

HOUSING

Under a revision of the current budget, ministers have allocated an additional £31m for affordable housing.

Ministers will also go ahead with a £2m boiler scrappage programme, after Labour demands to take on a scheme already running in England.

It would entitle anyone replacing the oldest category of domestic boiler to £400 assistance.

A total of £10m will go to supporting an area-based home insulation scheme, in response to the Greens.

SKILLS AND ECONOMY

The UK may have come out of recession, but there is still huge pressure on the jobs market. The government's plan to offer 10,700 apprenticeship places will be increased to as much as 15,000, while 5,000 new flexible training places will be put in place.

Mr Swinney also decided to take forward a request from Independent Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald to train more people in the repair of traditional buildings.

Budget revisions will also see an extra £20m for education and £10m to boost college and university places at a time of high demand from prospective students.

Mr Swinney will also plough an extra £10m into the Scottish Investment Bank to support firms wanting access to finance, while £1m will go to support a scheme to help post offices - which play a vital role in rural communities - diversify their operations.



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