Headlines: September 18th, 2009

The Scottish Government will protect frontline services, despite having the first real terms cut in its budget since devolution, according Scotland’s Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney. But he has been strongly criticised for cancelling a rail link for Glasgow Airport.

Presenting the draft budget for 2010-2011 to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney said that the Scottish Government’s approach has been to protect spending on frontline public services, the economic recovery plan, and support for households affected by economic hardship. The Scottish Government’s ‘Departmental Expenditure Limit Budget’ – the money over which it has direct control – will reduce in real terms by 0.9 per cent compared to this year, which Mr Swinney blamed on a “£500 million cut… imposed on Scotland by the UK Government.”

To find the savings, the Scottish Government administration budget will be cut by £14 million. Local government in Scotland has also agreed to take a pro-rata cut, which Mr Swinney praised as showing a “spirit of partnership”. However, a decision to maintain health funding by cutting the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL), has caused anger in that city. Around £47 million has already been spent on the scheme, but around £120 million should be saved by the decision. The leader of Glasgow City Council, Steven Purcell, accused the Scottish Government of having an “anti-Glasgow agenda” and described the link as vital to plans for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and continued economic growth. He said: “The SNP has offered us part funding for a bus lane. That is the worst deal in modern history.”

Other cuts affect teacher training, which bears the brunt of a £49 million reduction in the education budget. The environment budget will reduce by £8 million. A £253 million cut in the housing and regeneration budget has been explained as the result of investments being speeded up to address the recession.