2013/14 Budget

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney’s completion of the Scottish Government’s spending plans for 2013/14 is a major achievement in difficult times. Mr Swinney has to work within a budget fixed by Westminster at £30 billion, which has decreased over the last 4 years by a whopping 8% in real terms.  By law, the budget must be balanced with no borrowing.

Since NHS spending is protected, “health and wellbeing” take almost 40% of public spending. The remaining 60% is divided among many competing areas, ranging from local government and infrastructure to education and justice. Many painful decisions must be made and not everyone will be satisfied with the outcomes, but those politicians calling for more spending should say where they would get the money from.

Though I welcome the continued Council Tax freeze and lower than anticipated final cut in college funding, there is not much scope for public joy. An independent Scotland would have more choices. We could stop the multi-billion pound squandering on nuclear weapons and questionable foreign wars, and tackle the huge tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and companies.

The above was originally written for Bill’s Dunfermline Press column. This version may vary slightly.

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