Swinney: 'Scottish budget bleak reflection of challenges we face'

The deputy first minister admitted some public services may need reforms after laying out tax and spending plans.

John Swinney brands Scottish budget ‘bleak’ and admits some public services may need reform Scottish Parliament

Scotland’s deputy first minister has said the budget he laid out to parliament on Thursday was “bleak” and the delivery of public services will likely require reform.

John Swinney – who is also acting finance secretary – laid out the Government’s tax and spending plans this week, with a focus on the NHS and social security.

He announced that people earning more than £43,662 would pay more in tax as the higher rate was lifted from 41p to 42p while the top rate threshold was brought down to £125,140 while the rate rose from 46p to 47p.

In the wake of the budget, council leaders condemned it, claiming it could lead to an end to some public services.

Local authority body COSLA said the £550m increase in council funding actually amounted to just £71m in real terms.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Swinney said: “I set out, frankly, a pretty bleak picture to parliament on Thursday.

“It was an explanation of the very real difficulties we find ourselves in as a consequence of some of the global issues which we often feel are a long way away from us, but on this occasion the war in Ukraine has brought energy and price inflation right to the heart of our economy and public services – compounded by some of the significant strategic mistakes that have been made in the United Kingdom around Brexit and the mini-budget in early September.”

He added: “I think anyone observing my budget statement on Thursday would recognise that I gave a pretty candid, open explanation of the scale of difficulty that we face.”

Speaking to the same programme, COSLA resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said there was “disappointment across the board” at the settlement for local government, adding that councils would be “desperately trying to protect” frontline services.

Swinney also said that, as a result of financial pressure, the country should be open to reforming public services in a bid to save money.

“The financial pressures on all of us because of inflation are so great we have to change the way we deliver public services,” he said.

Referencing reports that the budget was a left-wing one, Swinney said it was “right for the times”.

“We face acute challenges, it needed bold action, and that’s what I did on Thursday,” he added.

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