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Finance Minister Jack McConnell
"We have control of our own budget and we should make best use of it"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Spending boost for Scotland
cars on road
The road network will receive a boost
Scotland's Finance Minister Jack McConnell has said government spending north of the border will rise by almost 14%.

He announced the figure during his Scottish Parliament address on spending plans for the next three years.

In real terms, more than 18bn would be available and the key services to benefit would include health, schools and local authorities, the country's transport network and services for the elderly.

Mr McConnell said the deal was an "excellent settlement" for Scotland.

Who benefits
Education - 5bn in total by year three
Health - an extra 400m each year
Transport - 170m more by year three, representing a 45% rise
Local government - a 1.2bn increase by year three and a 57% rise in allocation for capital programmes
He added: "The focus for the next three years will be on better services, we intend making a real difference for Scotland.

"And the rewards we reap are from a fruitful union - our partnership will spend more in Scotland than any other government in history.

"Devolution gives us the right to make our own budget and with that we have obligations to spend wisely.

"We are spending less on administration and more on frontline services.

"And we are practising what we preach - we are giving greater value for money and meeting targets for social justice and improving the country's infrastructure."

But opposition nationalists said increases in England were much better.

'Investing less'

The Scottish National party's Andrew Wilson MSP said the executive was investing less as a share of the nation's wealth to public services than the Tories did.

He added: "The simple fact which Labour must admit is that spending in the rest of the UK is increasing faster in the Scotland and with no justification.

"Jack McConnell has fewer powers than any other finance minister in the world. Scotland's Parliament has fewer powers than any other legislature in the world."

David Davidson MSP, Scotland's Tory Finance spokesman, said the Scottish Executive spending plans may lead to inflationary pressure and higher interest rates.

"Jack McConnell's statement only clarifies that Labour has set public spending on an unsustainable upwards trend that outstrips the predicted growth in national income.

"That threatens the golden economic legacy they inherited from the Conservatives by renewing the danger of increased interest rates and inflation," he added.

The rise in public spending has been made possible thanks to an additional 3.4m handout from the Treasury.

About half of it will be used on a number of health projects.

But Mr McConnell has also earmarked some of the cash to councils which are expected to use it to pay for home heating for the elderly and to fund wage rises for local government workers.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: "Good for Scotland"
As the Labour minister made his statement to the Scottish parliament, about 70,000 council staff were in the middle of their second one-day strike over the pay issue.

Schools were forced to close, libraries, social work and housing were also hit.

Mr McConnell hopes that his plans to spend more on the country's road network and transport system will help allay motorists' concerns.

He stressed that the cash was part of a long-term strategy and that nationwide concessionary fares would also be introduced.

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the spending boost for Scotland in July as part of his UK-wide Comprehensive Spending Review.

It was up to the executive to decide how to carve up the money and Mr McConnell held a series of talks with colleagues in key spending departments before this week's announcement.

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See also:

19 Sep 00 | Scotland
Strike looms amid pay moves
12 Sep 00 | Scotland
Ministers hammer out spending plans
18 Jul 00 | CSR
The CSR at a glance
18 Jul 00 | CSR
Strong economy aids spending
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