Sturgeon: Next year’s Scottish budget will be a ‘difficult balancing act’
Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland’s budget for next year will be a “difficult balancing act”.
Responding to the Chancellor’s autumn statement made on Thursday, the First Minister said that – “despite repeated requests” – there would be no support for the Scottish Government to deal with inflationary pressures in this year’s budget.
Instead, some £1.5 billion in Barnett consequentials will made available to the devolved administration over the next two years, described by Jeremy Hunt as “extra help”.
Writing in the Daily Record newspaper on Friday, the First Minister said: “Over the coming days, officials will scrutinise the numbers to understand precisely what the Chancellor’s statement means for next year’s Scottish budget, which will be presented to Parliament on December 15.
“It clearly will be a difficult balancing act, but we will do all we can within our limited resources to mitigate the impact of the cost of living crisis on Scotland’s families and businesses and continue building a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland.”
The statement laid out plans for billions of pounds of tax hikes and spending cuts to respond to financial pressures caused, in part, by Liz Truss’s mini budget.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney will lay out the draft Scottish budget on December 15.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Friday, the Chancellor said: “We’re all having to cope with inflation, and what we’ve announced yesterday is extra help for the Scottish Government to deal with those pressures, just as we’ve announced extra help for the NHS in England and for schools in England.
“What I would say is we want to deal with these problems and we want to make sure that vital public services like the NHS are protected through a difficult period.
“The reason for that is it’s the NHS that helps get people back to work when they’re not well, if they’ve got long Covid, (if) they’re waiting for an operation – the NHS has been under enormous pressure in Scotland as it has in the rest of the UK.”
Mr Hunt said he hoped the share of the cash coming to Scotland as a result of health spending would be invested in the NHS – a longstanding Scottish Government commitment that was reaffirmed by the Deputy First Minister later on in the same programme.
The Chancellor also claimed the health budget had been cut in Scotland “recently”, although it is not clear what he was referring to.
In the emergency budget review earlier this month, John Swinney announced £400 million or “reprioritisation” within the health budget, meaning resources would be moved elsewhere in the sector.
Mr Swinney, speaking on Good Morning Scotland after the Chancellor, said: “There are decisions that the UK Government has taken to invest in the National Health Service, we do take the view that money allocated to the NHS by the UK Government should then be transferred onto and allocated to health and social care within Scotland.
“That’s been our policy for some time.”
He added: “Without pre-judging our budget, I would give the assurance that there will be investment in the health service as a consequence of the decisions that have been arrived at yesterday, because that will be the application of the long-term policy commitment that was given to pass on Barnett consequentials from changes to health expenditure in England on the NHS and social care system in Scotland.”
But Mr Swinney said the extra cash “does not change” the position of the Scottish Government on public sector pay deals.
Currently, NHS staff and teachers are among a raft of workforces threatening strike action over pay.
But the cash will only flow into next year’s budget and cannot be used before the turn of the financial year.
“I can’t pay members of staff this year from next year’s money, I just can’t do that,” Mr Swinney said.
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