Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has announced a range of new measures in the Scottish budget for 2021-22, which she described as potentially the “most important in the history of devolution”.
Among these was support for jobs and skills totalling around £1.1bn.
Job creation was a priority, with measures including a commitment to launch a new Green Workforce Academy to help people secure work in the low carbon economy, a £100m Green Jobs Fund over the next parliament, £7m towards making Scotland a hub for digital business and an additional £115m for the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Health received record funding of over £16bn, an increase of 5.3% on 2020-21, along with a further £869m to continue tackling coronavirus, including funding for the vaccination and test and trace programmes.
To support family budgets, £90m is being made available for local authorities to freeze council tax.
Public sector workers earning up to £25,000 can receive at least a 3% pay increase via a £750 cash underpin, while there is a 1% rise for those earning above that amount, capped at £800 above £80,000.
The budget also proposed:
- £11.6bn for local government, which represents a £335.6m increase in core revenue funding, including the £90m to compensate local authorities which choose to freeze council tax, plus £259m in one-off funding.
- £1.9bn for primary health care to help deliver more services in the community, with a further £550m earmarked to build new Elective Care Centres and the Baird Family Hospital and Anchor Centre in Aberdeen.
- £98.2m to improve Scotland’s digital infrastructure and deliver access to high quality broadband and mobile coverage.
- £711.6m for affordable housing and £68m for the first full year of the Scottish Child Payment, tackling child poverty.
- A new £55m programme to support town centres and community-led regeneration projects.
- More than £3.1bn in resource and capital investment for education and skills, and £567m to provide 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare.
- £1.3bn for the Scottish Police Authority, including a £60m increase in Police Scotland’s revenue budget.
- £1.6bn for rail and bus services and £100.5m for active travel to consolidate changes to healthy, green travel options seen during the pandemic.
- Doubling the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, helping tourist attractions and local communities make improvements to cope with increased visitors.
- An additional £27m to expand woodland creation and the associated infrastructure, supporting green jobs.
Forbes confirmed that the Local Authority Discretionary Fund will be doubled to £60m in this financial year, while businesses eligible for the Strategic Framework Business Fund will receive full Level 4 payments on 22 February, regardless of any future changes to local restrictions.
The Scottish Government will also increase a scheme which compensates councils for the loss of income from sales, fees and charges due to the pandemic from £90m to £200m in 2020-21.
All our live coverage of the speech, debate and industry reaction can be found below: