Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What do I think of the Scottish Budget announcements?

Extra money for affordable housing can only be positive as this is on top of the additional 6,000 homes per year that has already been promised. However it is in the context of an overall cut to the housing budget, so it does beg the question – what else is being cut?

The proposed cut of £11.4m to student support which was in the draft budget will not now go ahead which is a welcome change of direction at a time when we need to encourage more students to take their education further. There was also an indication of more funding for further education colleges. It will not be enough but it is a start. This coupled with the increase in the modern apprenticeships and the guarantee of training or learning opportunities for the 16 – 19 year olds is at least a small step towards addressing the issue of growing unemployment in Scotland. I particularly welcome the investment of £3m to tackle Sectarianism an area of work that has been and will continue to be high on the agenda for the Church of Scotland.

Any steps that assist the Scottish people to cope during a period of financial austerity are welcome. However is the freeze in Council Tax a case “what is given with one hand is taken with the other” Cutbacks to local government funding from whatever source will surely threaten many local services?

Many other opportunities were missed. The promised levy on large stores selling tobacco and alcohol has been reduced. This will result in an estimated £15m - £95m reduction in the amount that the government had hoped to raise. What happened to the additional money this would bring in for the health service? I am also disappointed that not enough was done to support meeting Scotland’s plans for climate change. Yes, there was additional cash – but not nearly enough.

Then there is the protection of the NHS Budget but the cut in nursing costs and the apparent lack of additional support for kinship carers. So is this my last word on the topic of the Scottish Budget? You bet it’s not.

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