Scotland

Opposition parties: One-year budget 'too short-termist'

John Swinney
Image caption MSPs will vote on Mr Swinney's budget early next year

Scottish ministers should publish a budget covering more than just one year, opposition parties have said.

Finance Secretary John Swinney will set out details of his £30bn budget for 2011-12 at Holyrood on Wednesday.

But Labour and the Conservatives called for a long-term approach, while the Lib Dems said they feared the cuts would be too severe because the Scottish government's budget was short-term.

A government spokesman said it would include priorities for future years.

The minority SNP administration previously ruled out going beyond an annual budget but will need support for its spending plans to proceed.

Ministers failed to secure that support two years ago and the budget was rejected before a deal was later reached.

If a Budget Bill falls, spending reverts to the previous year's plan. Such a move this year could lead to an overspend approaching £1bn.

On Thursday, the Scottish Tories called for assurances for a long-term approach and warned their support was not guaranteed.

Now, Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems have joined the calls.

'Tory cuts'

Andy Kerr, Labour's finance spokesman, said: "The SNP must not shirk their responsibility by presenting a one-year election budget.

"The Scottish government now knows exactly how much money it has for the next three years, so they need to give everyone else the same certainty.

"I accept that tough decisions will have to be made and, in particular, there will have to be pay restraint in the public sector, but it is not the Scottish government's job to implement Tory cuts for them."

'Balanced budget'

Scottish Lib Dem finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis tabled a motion at Holyrood urging MSPs to back calls for ministers to publish a plan through until 2014-15.

"I am concerned that the SNP cuts will be too severe because their budget is too short-term," he said.

"If the finance secretary publishes only a one-year budget, when he has four years of figures, he will put jobs at risk, prevent councils and public bodies planning ahead effectively and will not allow the private sector the information it needs to make investment decisions and to create jobs."

Mr Swinney's plans will be voted on by MSPs early next year.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "As ministers have said to parliament, we will submit for parliamentary scrutiny and subsequent approval a balanced budget for 2011-12.

"That will include the total funding allocation for local government, and will be accompanied by the priorities for future years."

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