The Scottish Government’s latest Budget will be the “most important in the history of devolution”, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has said.
As Scotland wrestles with the coronavirus pandemic and forecasted downturns caused by Brexit, Forbes will outline her spending pledges in Holyrood on Thursday.
Some opposition parties have urged the Government to focus on recovery from the virus crisis, which has caused one of the greatest economic shocks in history.
Little is known about what Forbes will outline, although she has already said there will not be a public sector pay freeze similar to that imposed by the UK Government.
She has also hinted at the extension of rates relief for businesses, though has stressed the Scottish Government has “limited resources” with which to back the policy.
Speaking ahead of her Budget statement in Parliament, she said: “This is the most important Budget in the history of devolution. It comes as we are tackling a global pandemic and working to mitigate the damaging effects of a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for.
“I must ensure that every penny I have at my disposal makes an impact. The measures I am laying before Parliament today will provide certainty and stability to business, support families and bolster public services, while promoting sustainable growth and creating jobs.
“I hope the Scottish Parliament will support this Budget and help build the fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland we all want to see.”
Her spending announcement was pushed back due to a delay to the UK Government’s Budget, which will not now be outlined until March.
Forbes said her planning had been impacted by a lack of knowledge of UK plans, as she again called for greater powers to be devolved to Scotland.
“The delayed UK Budget has made the task more difficult by denying us crucial information on tax rates and funding,” she said.
“It highlights the flawed fiscal arrangements the devolved administrations operate within and I once again urge the Chancellor to grant the borrowing powers and flexibility we need to respond quickly and decisively to the unprecedented challenges facing us all.”
The Scottish Conservatives have urged the Government to ensure it can deliver the pledges laid out in the Budget, with leader Douglas Ross accusing ministers of making “empty promises” over business support announced in the last few months.
The party has listed nine points it wants the Scottish Government to commit to, including to rule out tax rises, to cover free school meals for all primary school children, and to defund any preparations for another independence referendum.
Scottish Labour has highlighted the importance of business support in the economic recovery, calling for further help as well as investment in training and skills, combined with increased funding for the NHS and a £15 per hour pay deal for social care workers.
The Liberal Democrats said their focus is on more support for mental health services following the pandemic, and funding for schools to help pupils disadvantaged by the coronavirus crisis.