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  1. 9.15am: Economy Committee
  2. 2pm: Portfolio Question time
  3. Next: Budget (Scotland) Bill debate
  4. Next: Learned Societies Group on Scottish Science Education Report debate

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Rachael Connors

All times stated are UK

That's all folks

Mr Allan says the commitment that this government has for science is borne out.

And that concludes our coverage from the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

You can catch up with all the day's business at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.


We'll be back with coverage of the European and External Relations Committee from 10.15am.

Until then have a lovely evening.

'No evidence'

The science minister says there is no evidence that pupils are being put off taking science subjects and the pass rates are holding up well.

Alasdair Allan

He disputes some of the claims in Mr Gray's motion.

Science teaching

Science Minister Alasdair Allan says the government recognises the importance of science teaching.

Mr Allan says the Curriculum for Excellence enshrines the importance of stem subjects.


Labour MSP Hanzala Malik says he was "shocked" to hear that 98% of primary and secondary schools depended on external funding for practical work.

He finds it "shameful" that Scotland is spending significanatly less per child on science than England.

Science championing

Education committee convener Stewart Maxwell says surveys have been from small samples and investment in science has gone up across Scotland.

Stewart Maxwell

He says there is a science championing scheme funded by the Scottish government and it takes place across about 50% of local authorities

Scotland has a proud history in relation to science and engineering, he adds.

Pass rates

Mr Gray says there are significantly lower pass rates in science than other subjects and fears that students won't take the science subjects up because of the belief they are too difficult.

Science problems

Mr Gray is concerned that schools might be put off encouraging pupils to take science subjects at National 5 if sitting those exams is perceived to have an adverse impact on pass rates.

He says given that some reports have stated that by 2030 over seven million jobs in the UK will depend on science skills and that, therefore, the science graduates that Scotland's economy will rely on are already at school and being introduced to the subject, this is a serious concern.

A-level girls study physics
Paul Jones IOP

The Labour MSP welcomes the Royal Society of Chemistry's recommendations on improving science learning in school through access to teaching specialists.

He also says he understands with disappointment that, in 2015-16, science societies and festivals will receive a real-terms cut in funding from the Scottish government.

Science teachers

Mr Gray says funding per pupil of science teaching in Scottish secondary schools is about a third less than in England, and it is about half in primaries.

There is an impending shortage of physics teachers, he adds.

'External funding'

In his motion Mr Gray says he is concerned with a recent survey which was published by the Learned Societies Group on Scottish Science Education suggesting that 98% of primary and secondary schools depended on external funding for practical work.

That included from parents and teachers.

Iain Gray
Iain Gray, Labour MSP

Mr Gray also says that 45% of primaries reported having no access to safety equipment and that spending per head on pupils studying science in Scotland is around two thirds of the equivalent spending in England.

Member's debate

The next item of business is a member's debate entitled 'Learned Societies Group on Scottish Science Education Report'.

Labour MSP Iain Gray is leading the debate.

Decision time

MSPs back the general principles of the budget.

66 MSPs back the motion with 55 abstentions.

Budget debate ends

Mr Swinney concludes the debate on the budget by saying he will happily engage with other parties on the budget proposals.

Budget debate

'Revenue neutrality'

Estate agent
Getty Images
Scottish ministers announced plans to replace stamp duty with a new property tax

Mr Swinney says revenue neutrality is the main principle of the LLBT and is the driver of the changes to the tax rates, not a desire to follow George Osbourne's proposals.

Your views

Robin: Focus on preventative spend in #scotbudget debate. Increasing investment in #fuelpoverty would reduce ill-health, as @RCNScot have said

Gary: .@patrickharvie calls for funds so councils can properly examine #fracking applications and not get outmanoeuvred by lobbyists. #ScotBudget

Grant Costello: Focus on preventative spend in the #scotbudget is important but we can't forget people left behind by previous administrations #fairsociety

'Preventative spend agenda'

The finance secretary says there is consideration around the threshold of student loans, responding to the issue raised by Willie Rennie.

Mr Swinney says he will of course engage with opposition parties over the proposals in the budget.

John Swinney

The preventative spend agenda is supported by all but will take time to implement he says.

Swinney closes

Finance Secretary and Deputy First Minister John Swinney begins his closing speech accepts there will be challenges with the widening responsibilities coming from the Smith Commission.

Mr Swinney says there will remain constraints on the Scottish government due to the powers which remain reserved to Westminster.

Scottish OBR

Mr MacDonald says the Scottish government will have to make some tough decision with the further devolution of taxes.

He says Labour want to see more front line funding for health, a mansion tax funding a further thousand nurses and a resilience fund for the Scottish economy.

Lewis Macdonald

The Labour MSP also calls for a Scottish Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)

'Changed his tune'

Scottish Labour MSP Lewis MacDonald highlights "the first new national taxes set by Scotland since the union".

Mr MacDonald says the finance secretary changed his tune to follow UK Chancellor George Osbourne's tax changes.

'Losing advantage'

Mr Brown says we have "slowly but surely" lost our advantage in some areas regarding business rates.

Finally, he says preventative spend is something everyone supports.

Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown
Scottish Conservative MSP Gavin Brown

But, he says, there is little evidence that preventative spending is getting the funds promised.

Tory closing

Tory MSP and finance spokeperson Gavin Brown says, on the economy as a whole, "the picture is good".

But he says he thinks there should be a word of caution.

He notes there was a decrease in unemployment across the UK but an increase in unemployment in Scotland, but says this could be just one quarter's results but we need to keep an eye on it.

Your views

LBBT changes #scotbudget

Fred:@BBCScotlandNews @BBCNews this will hit Aberdeen hard!

Scottish economy

SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie says it is noticeable the Scottish economy has outperformed the UK economy across a whole range of indices.


Mr Harvie comments on the changes to LBTT and says he did support initial rates in October and he worries that if these changes replicate the UK government's rates he finds this concerning and not a good precedent to set.

Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie
Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie

Mr Swinney intervenes and affirms that this is not a decision made to replicate what the UK government does.

He also highlights the issues of climate change and fuel poverty.

Austerity agenda

Green MSP Patrick Harvie says there is an "austerity agenda being imposed by the UK government" and limits to what any Scottish government can do.

Yet, he says, there are concerns that we're not yet acting as we could within those limits.

'Crisis in bed blocking'

Mr Rowley says there is a "crisis in bed blocking" in the NHS and while he welcomes the announcement of £100m to address this, NHS Fife will only get £6.73m over three years from that, but faces litigation claims for £17m.

Alex Rowley

"We need more nurses" the Labour MSP says adding that is why the Labour party in Scotland is "absolutely committed to putting more nurses in".

'More nurses'

Labour MSP Alex Rowley focuses on the NHS calling for the provision of more nurses.

Integrated working

SNP MSP Sandra White says, in terms of health, preventative spend is "absolutely the way forward".

Public authorities are key to the sustainability of services, she says.

Ms White continues that local authorities, councillors, the public can't wait for some joined up thinking between health and social care.

Conservative backing

Murdo Fraser

Mr Fraser says this is not the budget the Scottish Conservatives would have set out but aspects of it are welcome and "we will be happy to see it pass" to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.

Your views


Graham Thomson: Happier with new #LBTT rates that @JohnSwinney is proposing. Sensible to review & adjust in light of autumn statement changes. #scotbudget

'Second highest budget'

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser says the SNP continually complain about Westminster budget cuts but in fact the Scottish government has received the second highest budget in real terms the Scottish government have ever had to deal with.


SNP MSP John Mason says the whole point in devolving a tax is that we in Scotland make a decision and live by the consequences for better or for worse.

But Westminster seems to want to design a system whereby Scotland could never win however well we manage things ourselves.

He adds, John Swinney is to be commended in managing Scotland's finances.


Mr Swinney said the health budget is over £12bn pounds and he has exceeded his commitment to pass on consequentials from health spending in England in every year since 2010-11.


Mr Swinney said the Budget Bill allocates £81 million to mitigate the most harmful impacts of the bedroom tax.

The Scottish government will invest over £390 million to deliver affordable homes, of which 4,000 will be for social rent as well says the deputy first minister.

A house for sale
Getty Images
The help to buy scheme was launched in Wales by the Welsh government in January

He says there will be a £30 million Help to Buy (Scotland) Small Developers Scheme.

£94 million of resources will be allocated to domestic energy efficiency in 2015-16 he says.

Preventative spend

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm says the central part of the finance committee report was preventative spend.

Malcolm Chisholm

He highlighted that the committee said there was "little evidence of essential resources being moved" to fund preventative spending.


Mr Swinney insisted the three broad principles of the budget were:

Finance Secretary John Swinney
Finance Secretary John Swinney

• Making Scotland a more prosperous country;

• Tackling inequality; and

• Protecting and reforming our public services.


• More than 90,000 taxpayers - nine out of ten taxpayers - will be better or no worse off under the Scottish system than under UK Stamp Duty Land Tax;

• all those buying a residential property in Scotland for £330,000 or less will pay up to £400 less tax under LBTT, or will pay no tax at all; and

• 99.9% of residential transactions will pay less tax or no tax at all, compared to the proposed rates and bands in October. Only those buying a home for more than

£945,000 will pay more in tax under our new plans, compared to our Draft Budget proposals.


With effect from the 1st April 2015:

• To provide further support for First Time buyers the threshold for beginning to pay tax will be increased to £145,000 - taking 50% of transactions, or another 5,000 homes out of tax altogether.

• A marginal rate of 2% will apply to transactions between £145,000 and £250,000;

Eyes of the Queen on a banknote
Getty Images

• To restore the benefit of my proposals to those buying properties up to the value of £330,000, An additional marginal rate of 5% between £250,000 and £325,000;

• between £325,000 and £750,000 the marginal rate will be 10%

• the top marginal rate of 12% will now affect all transactions above £750,000.

Fiscal autonomy

Mr Russell says the renewal of Trident is another "moral and economic tragedy foisted upon us in the same way".

If you only have control over a small part of the taxation mix - decisions are always compromised by what you can't do, he adds.

Mike Russell

He says that having full fiscal powers would allow for full decision making.

He concludes: "It is the normal thing to do"

Limited spending power

SNP MSP Mike Russell says the deputy first minster has at his disposal "only a small fraction of the full wealth and potential of this nation".

He says even if the Smith commission's proposals are implemented in full we still will only have a small fraction.

Tuition fees

Mr Rennie brings up student loans, and notes this is a brave area to bring up for a Lib Dem these days.

University fees

He says he wants to see the threshold raised to £21,000.