Scottish budget plans to be announced on 6 February

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Derek Mackay in the Scottish Parliament


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Derek Mackay has been critical of the UK government’s approach to the budget process

The Scottish government is to announce its draft budget plans on 6 February.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will set out his tax and spending proposals a month ahead of the UK budget, which will not be published until 11 March.

Mr Mackay said it would have been “impossible” to wait for the UK budget as usual while councils and public services need clarity about funding.

A spokesman for the Treasury said it would work with Scottish ministers to provide the fiscal information needed.

The provisional timetable will see the budget bill pass through Holyrood in a matter of weeks in a bid to make sure it gains royal assent in time for tax provisions to take effect from 1 April.

Mr Mackay normally waits to see the UK budget before publishing his own plans, with UK tax forecasts and the size of the block grant having a major bearing on the funding available to him.

However, Chancellor Sajid Javid will now not set out his plans until 11 March, which Mr Mackay said made it “impossible” for him to wait “without drastically reducing the time for parliamentary scrutiny”.

Mr Mackay added: “In these exceptional circumstances, created by the UK government, it is vital we give local authorities and public services clarity on their budgets. That is why we have made the decision to publish our budget in February which will allow local authorities to set their budgets and council tax before the legal deadline of 11 March.

“I look forward to publishing a budget that will help tackle the global climate emergency, reduce child poverty and boost the economy.”

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The aim is for the bill to pass through the Scottish Parliament in a matter of weeks

Mr Mackay said the Treasury’s approach to the timing of the budget was “completely unacceptable and has shown a disregard for devolution”.

The UK government has insisted throughout the row that it can provide Scottish ministers with enough information to set a budget at the time of their choosing.

A spokesman said: “Nothing stops the Scottish Parliament from passing their budget before the UK budget. We are working with the Scottish government as part of an agreed process to provide the information they need to prepare their budget.

“At the spending round, we announced that the Scottish government’s block grant will increase by £1.2bn next year.”

The minority SNP administration needs the backing of opposition MSPs to pass a budget, and has partnered with the Greens for the past three years.

Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said he would not allow the “crisis” and short timescale to take focus away from negotiations, saying: “Scotland needs a climate emergency budget which changes direction on polluting transport policies, invests in low carbon solutions and creates new jobs in green industries, while protecting local services around the country.”

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser meanwhile said it was “good to see the SNP government has finally accepted that it does have enough information to go ahead with a budget”, adding that there was “no justification at this time for further tax increases or even more cuts to vital public services”.



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