Budget for Independence highlights wrong priorities

Today marked the start of the Scottish Government’s budget process as Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP delivered his statement on the draft budget for 2014-15.

The statement had been billed ahead of time by the Finance Secretary as a Budget for Independence.  In doing so, the Scottish Government has once again demonstrated that it has got its priorities all wrong.

Rather than focusing on not rocking the boat ahead of next year’s referendum, the Scottish Government should have been putting forward a budget to help grow our economy and get people back to work.  As it is, Scotland is on pause.

This is underlined by today’s employment statistics which show an additional 10,000 unemployed people in Scotland.  Women in particular are being badly hit while more than one in five young people can’t find work.  For those who are employed, more and more are reliant on part-time jobs, temporary work  and zero-hour contracts to make ends meet.

My priority areas are ensuring that our councils receive a fair settlement to allow them to deliver effective services which help people through these tough times. We also need college budgets supported to ensure opportunities for training and employment for all and support for house building to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing in Edinburgh and to create construction jobs. That’s why I’m particularly keen that the Scottish Government act further on the Bedroom Tax to enable councils and housing associations to support their tenants while continuing to build new, affordable housing.  The £20m support provided this year is less than half of what is required and no certainty has been provided going forward.