A public sector pay freeze, a new levy on large alcohol and cigarette retailers and a commitment not to raise council tax for five years, are the headlines from this year’s Scottish budget.
Unveiling his first budget since the SNP’s massive election win in May, Finance Secretary John Swinney said that lessons could be learnt from Scotland’s record on growth and job creation.
He announced that the public sector pay freeze will continue for another year but also confirmed a manifesto pledge not to increase council tax for the next five years.
Opposition leaders have questioned the latter decision, given the tough economic climate.
Elsewhere there will be a new levy on big retailers who sell alcohol and tobacco in order to fund “preventative spending” aimed at stopping health related problems.
The budget also included a boost to capital spending in a bid to lift growth.
Mr Swinney said: “This spending review contains tough choices because of the cuts from Westminster that go too far, too fast.
“We have had to restrict pay costs, reluctantly implement pension increases on public sector staff, and maximise the income gained from asset sales.”
But John Swinney noted that Scotland is the only part of the UK where unemployment is falling, saying that the recession north of the border had been shorter compared to the rest of the country.
He also criticised the Westminster government for imposing the most “swingeing public spending cuts the country has seen since the second world war”.
Mr Swinney said: “To those who give out lectures on growth and are presiding over stagnation we say learn a lesson from the record of investment, job creation and balanced budgets being delivered here in Scotland.”
The SNP now has a large majority in the Scottish parliament so the budget is more than likely to be passed without the wheeling and dealing seen between parties in recent years.
Opposition leaders accused Mr Swinney of unfairly blaming the Westminster government for the spending cuts in Scotland.