Budget 2010-11

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:55 pm on 17th September 2009.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:55 pm, 17th September 2009

The next item of business is a statement by John Swinney on the budget. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I present to Parliament today, for consultation and debate over the coming months, the Scottish Government's draft budget for 2010-11.

The budget document sets out a package of spending proposals that are designed to build on the achievements that this Government has delivered in the past two years, and to set the course for further achievement.

Our spending plans continue to be shaped by the Government's purpose of delivering sustainable economic growth, by our framework of national outcomes and by our commitment to first-class public services in Scotland. Our plans also contribute to the advancement of greater equality, so we will, for the first time, provide an equality statement on the budget.

I am pleased to say that today we are also for the first time publishing a carbon assessment of the draft budget, which provides an understanding of the carbon impact of Government expenditure.

Our spending plans are, of course, framed by the current economic climate. At a time when many businesses and families are facing the challenges that are brought by recession, it is imperative that the Government respond effectively and decisively to support them.

I present the draft budget to Parliament against the backdrop of a significant squeeze on public expenditure. The Scottish Government's departmental expenditure limit—the money over which we have direct control—will reduce in real terms by 0.9 per cent, compared with this year. That is the first real-terms cut in the Scottish budget since devolution and it is happening for two reasons. First, we have taken decisions—supported across Parliament—to accelerate capital expenditure in order to counter the effects of recession. That step has helped to boost the economy, but the Treasury requirement to repay that resource at a critical point at the start of economic recovery poses a threat to that recovery.

Secondly, the Scottish Government has had to consider the impact of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's decision to reduce the budgets that are available to Whitehall departments, which imposes upon us a consequential reduction of £392 million in the planned resource budget. His decision to reduce the Department of Health capital baseline brings a further reduction of £129 million in the Scottish Government's planned capital budget, which will be offset by some minor consequentials. That leaves a reduction of about £500 million.

Those pressures in 2010-11 will be the first of a sequence of pressures—that are well known—on the public finances. A range of forecasters also predict significant real-terms cuts to the Scottish budget of up to 8.5 per cent between this year and the end of 2013-14. Reductions of that size would bring substantial challenges, so our decisions in this budget must take account of the medium-term outlook.

We believe that there is a compelling case for the chancellor to assist economic recovery by further accelerating capital budgets into 2010-11 in order to support thousands of jobs across Scotland in these tough economic times. Without further acceleration of capital expenditure, we will see steep falls in the resources that are available for housing, transport and other infrastructure activities that are essential to the safeguarding of jobs and to recovery. Indeed, the housing organisations in Scotland have commended the Scottish Government for its actions in accelerating housing investment and have made a plea for further such actions. I encourage people in Scotland who share the Government's view—that further investment is required—to make the case to the chancellor before the pre-budget report in November, in order to ensure that we can act in that way. I make the point that we cannot, because we operate within a fixed budget, without the consent of the chancellor stretch that budget to meet the essential investment objectives that we all share and wish to see delivered.

We have also had to consider in the budget a range of additional pressures that have arisen: for example, the unitary charge payments in respect of public-private partnership schools projects for which contracts were signed some years ago, but for which funding was not allocated at the time; increased teacher pension costs; and increased costs of police and fire pensions due to valuation decisions and court rulings.

In the light of the different financial climate that we face, we have had—as a responsible Government—to face difficult choices about where to reduce planned spending next year. We will meet this challenge while continuing to work with our partners to achieve our priorities.

I will now explain the specific approach that we are taking to capital spending. The chancellor has cut the Department of Health capital baseline, the result of which is a cut in our capital budget of £129 million. I believe that it would not serve the interests of the people of Scotland to pass to the NHS in Scotland the chancellor's cut in the Department of Health baseline, so the Scottish Government has decided not to do that. We will therefore be drawing down all of our unspent end-year flexibility balances that are held by Her Majesty's Treasury, which will enable us to ensure that the health budget bears no part of the £129 million reduction. That said, we can draw down end-year flexibility only for one year. The Government must act now to ensure that the capital budget is sustainable in the years to come, so to do that, we have reluctantly decided to cancel the Glasgow airport rail link project.



Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Absolute shame. [ Interruption. ] It is no laughing matter.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The project will incur capital costs for several years. The Government has been concerned by the rise in the costs associated with the project. Those increases are due to significantly higher estimates of the costs of relocating existing infrastructure, as compared with figures that were shared with Parliament at the time of the legislation. However, we will continue to support the capacity and signalling improvements on the rail line between Glasgow and Paisley, which will improve services to the travelling public in the area. I announce today that we will financially support other measures to improve public transport in Glasgow and the west of Scotland as part of the fastlink initiative that addresses connections to the new Southern general hospital and the Commonwealth games site—[ Applause. ]

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

This Government continues to attach the highest priority to that. Increased resources have been allocated to continue the preparation for a Forth replacement crossing. Other elements of the Government's capital programme will continue as planned.

The United Kingdom Government's cuts have also put pressure on our resource budgets. In dealing with that, I have been determined to act in a way that protects jobs, supports families and communities and retains investment in skills, innovation and our industries of the future. That is why this budget delivers increased resources for all core portfolios, focusing first on front-line services and the economy. However, the reduced total budget that is available to the Scottish Government means that each portfolio has also been asked to bear down on its resource budget in ways that do not impact on Government priorities and our front-line services.

There are three additional actions that we will take. First, our core Scottish Government administration budget will be cut by £14 million in 2010-11. We accept that, while asking others to save money, we should be prepared to rein back our internal spending. Secondly, we are asking local government to take its pro-rata share of the chancellor's cuts. Scottish local authorities have indicated that they are prepared to manage within these reduced spending totals and to approach the resultant challenges—which will be significant—in a spirit of partnership. We welcome the local government approach of placing the welfare of service users in Scotland at the heart of the agenda.

Thirdly, additional resource savings will be found by reducing spending on a number of projects and programmes that have been selected in order to minimise impact on our immediate priorities. They include £20 million set aside next year to prepare for the introduction of a local income tax, real-terms cuts in administration and running costs across our other budgets, and a 54 per cent reduction in our strategic communications budget, formerly called the advertising and marketing budget.

Our approach has been to protect the programmes that matter most to the people of Scotland: spending on front-line public services, such as schools and hospitals; our economic recovery plan, including support for skills development and hard-pressed businesses; and programmes that help to protect households at a time of economic hardship.

We are therefore maintaining investment in our economic recovery plan. We will invest in the new technologies and industries of the future. We will continue with the small business bonus scheme. We will invest £842.9 million in the rail network in Scotland to encourage greater use of our public transport systems and we will provide free bus travel to more than 1 million people. We will deliver further support to the renewable energy industry to take forward the exciting agenda of developing new power sources across the sector.

We are delivering sustained investment in Scotland's health service, prioritising front-line services and maintaining the fight against hospital-acquired infection. We are ensuring that Scotland is well prepared to respond to the flu pandemic, as well as maintaining the delivery of major public health programmes, including on alcohol misuse. We will continue to reduce prescription charges towards their complete abolition in 2011. [Applause.]

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We are supporting investment in the further and higher education sectors and are protecting the essential investment in skills that will enable us to emerge from economic difficulties. The implementation of the curriculum for excellence will be supported by significant resources, and the development of the early years framework will help to ensure that every child in Scotland has the best possible start in life.

Capital investment will be delivered to modernise the prisons estate. We will support drug treatment services to assist individuals to recover from addiction. We are taking forward our £1.25 billion school building programme, which will see young Scots in communities across Scotland benefit from the best possible learning environment.

Our partnership with local government means that we will work together to deliver all the commitments that were made in the concordat that was signed in November 2007, including on increasing police numbers. Already, together with local government and the police, we have exceeded our commitment to place 1,000 extra officers on the streets of Scotland. We are acting to put more money in people's pockets, with resources being made available again to freeze the council tax.

We will spend more than £350 million on affordable housing projects, although we recognise that we could do more with the benefit of acceleration in capital expenditure, for which we have pressed the United Kingdom Government. We are maintaining our support for rural communities and will invest to support our zero-waste strategy, while continuing to work with others to protect and enhance our natural environment.

Our approach also ensures that money is available to meet commitments that were given in previous budgets, such as additional investment in modern apprenticeships, the on-going development of the home insulation programme and the Edinburgh capital city supplement. We will continue to prioritise spending on action to combat climate change across a range of Government programmes, and specifically through the climate challenge fund, which is assisting community action to reduce emissions.

I know that Parliament will welcome the fact that, within the tight constraints within which we must operate, the Government recognises Scotland's international responsibilities and the wider global impact of the recession. The Scottish Government will therefore increase the budget for international development from £6 million to £9 million next year.

The lower than planned budget uplift for 2010-11 and the new spending climate for Scotland require that all parts of the public sector reassess how best we can deliver the services that the public expect and deserve. We believe that that challenge can be met successfully. We will work with public bodies, leaders and staff to ensure that we address the task of making these externally-imposed savings with the minimum impact on service users and the people of Scotland.

I commend to Parliament the draft budget that we are publishing today, which is designed to deliver maximum benefits to the people of Scotland at a time of unprecedented economic and financial challenges, and to minimise the impact on front-line services and Scotland's economy of the reductions that have been imposed on us. I present the draft budget in a true spirit of consultation, because the financial challenges that we face—next year and beyond—are challenges for both the Scottish Government and the Parliament. I accept that we must work with other parties in Parliament to secure a budget next spring that commands the support of Parliament. We have made clear our willingness to engage constructively with other parties to secure that agreement. I reiterate that we will do so.

The Government has a strong record of investing in front-line services and promoting economic recovery. We acknowledge that we are working within a difficult financial climate to achieve those aims, but we pledge to do everything in our power to deliver for the people of Scotland. [Applause.]

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party


The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues raised in his statement, for which we will allow about 30 minutes. If members wish to ask a question—I stress, ask a question—they should press their request-to-speak buttons.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

We on this side of the chamber wanted a budget for jobs, for the economy and, of course, for the protection of front-line services. We have not got that.

Although the UK Government has supported our banks to the tune of £37 billion and our economy to the tune of £2 billion, thereby protecting us from a 10 per cent drop in revenues, what do we have in the Scottish Government's budget? How does the cabinet secretary marry his pledge for economic growth with the cancellation of the Glasgow airport rail link? That is the second airport rail link the Government has cancelled.

Was that discussed with the Council of Economic Advisers? Does the Government understand the impact of the decision and the fact that more than 1,000 jobs are now at stake? Has the growth of the economy of the west of Scotland been taken into consideration in the budget?

All that comes in the context of a budget that has grown by £600 million—a growth in cash terms and in real terms. We heard a lot about cuts in Mr Swinney's statement, so I ask him to address this question. Is it not the case that, even if the United Kingdom efficiency savings are taken into account, the Scottish Government's budget continues to grow? Is it not therefore perverse for Mr Swinney to argue that the budget has been cut by Westminster? The budget that was given by Westminster for 2010-11 went up by £600 million.

Any cut to the budget was carried out by Mr Swinney himself. If any cut has occurred, it is Mr Swinney's prints that are on the knife. Like a latter-day Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, he has been caught in the act, standing over the body. What is that body? It is the Glasgow airport rail link and the jobs and economic impact that it would have brought; it is the housing and community regeneration budget, which has been slashed. Even enterprise and tourism have been cut. We have not heard a word about the national conversation or the Scottish Futures Trust, however. Is it not about time that the cabinet secretary got his priorities in line with those of the people of Scotland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I think people want to see their Parliament discussing serious issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of members of the public. People observing that contribution from Mr Kerr will think that he kicked the ball well and truly over the bar.

Mr Kerr should remind himself—he should know this, from his previous life as Minister for Finance and Public Services—that all budgets must be sustainable in the medium term. He did not in that rant produce a scintilla of evidence that in any way refutes the difficulty that I face for 2011-12, when £129 million will be removed from my capital budget. That is why I have to—

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Jackie Baillie mutters about EYF. This is the point about 2010-11: budgets go on, and financial commitments for capital projects go on into 2011-12. In the budget for 2011-12, we will have to find £129 million of capital programme savings, which is why—reluctantly and regretfully—I have had to take the decision to cancel the Glasgow airport rail link.

Many arguments can be deployed about the financial position that we now find ourselves in, but the reason why we are unable to put more money into housing expenditure in 2010-11 is that we responded to the clarion call that was made in Parliament to accelerate capital expenditure on affordable housing.

Let me quote from the gentleman sitting beside Mr Kerr. On 3 September 2009, Mr Iain Gray said:

"Accelerating capital investment this year was a good thing, of course—we suggested it."—[Official Report, 3 September 2009; c 19214.]

Now, he complains about the consequences. Mr Gray and Mr Kerr should weigh in behind the Administration in demanding to accelerate capital expenditure, in order to ensure that we do not cut budgets in the face of early signs of economic recovery. The right thing to do, just as the Prime Minister said, is to invest at this stage when the economy is fragile, in order to strengthen economic recovery.

Photo of Derek Brownlee Derek Brownlee Conservative

The Conservatives welcome the decisions to protect the business rates cuts that we secured in previous budgets, to maintain the council tax freeze and to recruit the additional police officers whose recruitment we secured in the first budget of this parliamentary session. Reducing the First Minister's advertising budget by half is a start, too.

The Glasgow airport rail link is another casualty of Labour's cuts. It will not be the last, given the mess that the public finances are in. Given that almost every forecaster expects further reductions in spending, and given that the First Minister rejected every suggestion that Annabel Goldie made at First Minister's question time today, will the cabinet secretary say where he will make further cuts if the public finances require him to do so?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I hope that that was not a hint about the financial strategy of an incoming Conservative Government.

I have a duty to set a sustainable budget for 2010-11, so that is precisely what I have done. I do not deny that there are difficulties, but we cannot have a situation in which the Government faces a real-terms reduction in our budget of 0.9 per cent, or £268 million, without there being consequences.

I assure Mr Brownlee that what the Government has put together, which we will consult on and discuss in Parliament and with communities throughout Scotland, is a budget that addresses the difficulties and challenges that we face and which will do exactly what I said it will do—which is to prioritise front-line services and support economic recovery.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I thank the cabinet secretary for the advance sight of his statement.

Will the cabinet secretary explain the new presentation of budget information this year? Table 1 shows a comparison of actual departmental expenditure limit with original DEL, which includes the accelerated capital that was brought forward this year. No Government budget has presented information in that way to Parliament in the past. Stripping out the accelerated capital figure shows that there was a revenue increase of £400 million this year.

Does the cabinet secretary recall his comments to the Finance Committee at its meeting in Ayr last November? He said:

"The Government hopes and believes that by accelerating affordable housing investment, for example, we can try to stem some of the losses in the construction sector. By 2010-11, there may be some recovery in private sector activity that allows construction activity to fill some of those gaps in the programme."—[Official Report, Finance Committee, 10 November 2008; c 792.]

The cabinet secretary was perfectly clear on the matter last November. Was his judgment as wrong as that of the Treasury on the need further to accelerate capital?

Why has the Government not changed its approach to free school meals, prescription charges, the Scottish Futures Trust, the funding of Scottish Water and Government capital investment as a whole? The budget does not address key needs or make the changes that will be needed in the coming year. It beggars belief that funding for the Scottish Futures Trust—a funding body that funds nothing and advisory body that has no one to advise—is being doubled under this Government.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We were the first Administration in the UK to accelerate capital investment. We did not wait for the Treasury to tell us to do so; we did it in summer 2008, in recognition of the difficulties that there would be in the construction sector.

My comments to the Finance Committee in Ayr on expectations of economic recovery stand accurate. The private housing market will make some contribution in 2010-11, but I do not think that anyone believes—no economic analysis suggests it—that 2010-11 will be a buoyant year for the economy. This is the time to ensure that we have a further tranche of accelerated capital expenditure, in order to continue that work to recovery.

Mr Purvis asked why there has been no change on free school meals, prescription charges and the Scottish Futures Trust. The Government has made its choices and has set them out in the budget. It is a draft budget for consultation and discussion with others. If Mr Purvis has different views about some of the choices that we should make—I know he has—the Government will engage in discussion about those choices.

When one examines the Treasury's expectations of future capital expenditure—a projected capital expenditure fall of 20.7 per cent in 2011-12, followed by a fall of 13 per cent in 2012-13, followed by a fall of 17.4 per cent in 2013-14—it becomes ever clearer how important it is that we secure the best possible value for the public purse from the Scottish Futures Trust's work. That is what we will look to the Scottish Futures Trust to deliver.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I have 17 back benchers whom I really would like to call, so I ask for no preamble; please ask a question. The minister should take care with his answers.

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party

I particularly welcome the cabinet secretary's confirmation that measures that help families and businesses to get through the recession, such as the small business bonus scheme and funding the council tax, will continue in the budget. Will he comment on the evidence that Dundee City Council's director of finance gave to the Local Government and Communities Committee? When commenting on previous council tax freezes, he said:

"Not having the freeze would have caused council tax increases of not 3 per cent per annum ... but approximately 5 per cent per annum."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 9 September 2009; c 2284.]

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

When many families and individuals are facing reduced working hours, salary freezes or having to take salary cuts, this is not the time for us to increase significantly the council tax. There would have to be a significant increase in the council tax to provide the resources that would not be available to councils from Government support. In protecting household income at a time when we all recognise that it is fragile, the council tax freeze performs a significant element of what the people of Scotland expect from the Government.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Why has the housing and regeneration budget been slashed from £701 million to £448 million—a reduction of £253 million—when communities are crying out for that help? Does the cabinet secretary agree that his Government slashed the affordable housing budget by a third—a home-grown decision that he cannot blame on Westminster—at the same time as cutting the housing association grant and telling housing associations to front fund development themselves without knowing where the money would come from? Has he said by his actions that neither he nor his Government care about housing and our communities?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I said no preamble: it seems to me that a preamble can be before or after a question. Members should ask one question only, please. I want to get in as many members as I possibly can and I want to be fair.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Jackie Baillie obviously does not understand the concept of capital acceleration. If we bring forward expenditure from one financial year into two previous financial years, which results in us building a record number of houses—record numbers of starts and completions in affordable housing—and record investment of £1.5 billion over the comprehensive spending review period, that demonstrates that the Government is committed to investment in affordable housing. If Jackie Baillie wants to support our pitch to the United Kingdom to give us a further tranche of accelerated capital expenditure, I will willingly welcome her endorsement of our cause.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree with Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses? Referring to the small business bonus scheme, he said to the Finance Committee:

"Recent FSB research shows that, for one in eight recipients, the scheme made the difference over the past 12 months between sinking and swimming. That is significant, particularly if it were to be extrapolated across the whole economy."—[Official Report, Finance Committee, 5 May 2009; c 1180.]

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Mr Gibson—ask a question, please.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary confirm that it is vital to continue the scheme, and how much extra will he have to find next year to fund Angry Kerr's extortionate private finance initiative schemes?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr Gibson mentioned the small business bonus scheme. In my visits to many small communities, towns and cities around Scotland, I have been struck by the fact that the small business bonus scheme has been of real assistance to many companies in surviving difficult times. The small business community represents the enormous majority of the business community in Scotland.

Mr Gibson also asked what additional resource I have to find to support PFI schemes between this financial year and next year. It is of the order of £100 million in additional commitments in this financial year.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

The current budget continues the policy of zero council tax increases, as we have heard, despite the pleas of councils in Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Highland and South Ayrshire, which say that the position is not sustainable. Can the cabinet secretary tell us what percentage share of what he describes as the chancellor's cuts local government is being asked to take? How can he say that he is defending front-line services when there are 1,000 teachers on the dole?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As a consequence of our discussions with local government, local authorities have taken their percentage share of the chancellor's cuts, and they have done so in the spirit of partnership that exists between the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities. We look forward to working with local government to address what I accept will be a challenging financial environment in the period to come. Local government is getting the support that the Government promised it would get, and we are backing that up with the resources that are necessary to deliver on our commitments.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

The cabinet secretary says that local authorities have said that they are prepared to manage the reductions. Is it not the case that he asked them to make the cuts—indeed, greater cuts? Had they really any choice? Will he publish the minutes of all the secret meetings with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in order to demonstrate just how willing they were? Is the Government prepared to listen to SNP councillors and give local government its autonomy back by allowing councils to decide for themselves whether rises in council tax are preferable to front-line service cuts?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As part of the discussions that I look forward to having across the parliamentary chamber, Alison McInnes is free—as are her colleagues among the Liberal Democrats—to advance the argument for not proceeding with a council tax freeze. I accept that that is a choice. It is up to individual political parties and independent MSPs to marshal the arguments that they wish to put in the course of the budget process. However, the Government believes that the decision to protect household income at a time when it is under real pressure is the right decision. That is why I have put the resources in place to ensure the delivery of a council tax freeze.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

A few weeks ago, I met representatives of BAA Ltd and the cost of the Glasgow airport rail link was discussed. Can the cabinet secretary tell me what the financial position is in relation to GARL? Can he also confirm how he sees fastlink meeting Glasgow's transport needs, in particular those of the 2014 Commonwealth games and the Southern general hospital campus?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As I explained in my statement, the Government has become increasingly concerned at the significant difference in the real costs that we face in carrying out some of the early work on the Glasgow airport rail link involving the relocation of existing infrastructure, which does not contribute to the infrastructure of the railway other than by clearing a site. The estimate that was given to Parliament at the time of the parliamentary proceedings was that the cost would be £8 million. We now estimate the cost to be £70 million, which shows the difference in cost. That in no way addresses the sustainability of the capital budget, which is a factor, bearing in mind the £129 million of reductions that we will face again in 2011-12. That is a foretaste of the reductions in capital investment.

I have, however, made it clear that the Government will support financially the fastlink development, which addresses the need for connections and journeys across the city of Glasgow. It will be of particular assistance in providing connections to the new Southern general hospital and to the Commonwealth games developments, to which the Government is giving a significant amount of support. I am certain that that will meet the aspiration of the people of Glasgow to have better transport connections within the city.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

How can the cabinet secretary possibly justify a budget that is so hostile to Glasgow and the west of Scotland? How can he give us his explanation when he knows full well that his budget will cost 1,300 jobs in Glasgow and the west of Scotland? Can he explain this morning's reports that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will get special funding of £3 million? Can he put on the record this afternoon whether he has any intention at any time of introducing such funding? Given the special funding that Edinburgh got last year—

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Is it not time that the cabinet secretary was fair to Glasgow, our biggest city?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government has no intention of putting in place the additional resources that were speculated about in the newspapers this morning.

On the question of being fair to Glasgow, I point out to Margaret Curran that the Government is presiding over a project that her Administration failed to deliver: the completion of the M74, at a cost of £690 million. We are presiding over the upgrade of the M80 into Glasgow, at £330 million. We are completing the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link to give people better access to the city of Glasgow, at £350 million. For the Edinburgh to Glasgow rail improvement programmes, £1.1 billion is being provided. For the Southern general hospital, there is £850 million. In addition, we have the Commonwealth games, housing and resources to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. There is a pretty good deal for Glasgow from this Administration.

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary confirm that the support for Scotland's students that was set out two years ago is part of this year's budget? Can he confirm that the investment that is needed to support students in training is a vital part of the economic programme?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I can confirm that that is part of the budget proposals. Obviously, there will be further discussions to develop the different proposals that will be undertaken in the budget.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The cabinet secretary said in his statement that he will work with public bodies to achieve a minimum impact on service users. What percentage reduction in core services does he define as a minimum impact?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The distinction that I tried to make in my statement is between some of the costs of the infrastructure of government and the costs of actually delivering services to individual members of the public. That is where I think—I acknowledge Mr McCabe's contribution to this debate from his previous experience in local government and as a minister—that there are opportunities for us to ensure that, in a tighter financial climate, we focus more and more resources on sustaining the services on which individuals depend. That will be at the heart of the message that ministers take to local authorities and health boards in encouraging the collaboration at local level of which we see increasing evidence across the country. That will be the approach that the Government takes to ensure that we deliver the maximum value for money for the public purse and the maximum impact from the provision of services that people require.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, rather than indulging in blatant scaremongering about the national health service and wallowing in negativity, members of the Labour group would better serve this nation by urging their Westminster colleagues to implement capital acceleration and powers for this Parliament to enable Scotland's Government, in partnership with Scotland's Parliament and civic society, to further protect jobs, support families and communities, and keep our investment in skills, innovation and industries of the future?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Obviously, the ability to borrow would provide the Administration with the opportunity to take forward commitments for significant items of capital expenditure over a longer period of time. We would be able to do that in the normal way that any other Government—or, for that matter, any local authority in Scotland—is able to do.

We do not have those powers just now, but it is clearly an aspiration of this Government to have them. I hope that that aspiration is shared by all the parties in Parliament. After all, the Government supports the idea of having borrowing powers, and the three other parties were enthusiastic supporters of the Calman commission, which recommended such a proposition. I look forward to a new element of consensus emerging, so that we can acquire the necessary powers and responsibilities.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

When will the equalities statement be made available? Given the disproportionate impact of unemployment and economic disadvantage on Glasgow and the west of Scotland, what equality impact assessment has been done of the decision to strip communities in the west of Scotland of 1,300 jobs through the GARL decision? What equality impact assessment has been done of the effect that a council tax freeze will have on families who depend on the local delivery of front-line services?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I do not wish to repeat the list of job creation projects that I shared with Margaret Curran—I did not read out all of them—[ Interruption. ] Johann Lamont asked me about employment and the GARL project, and she is getting an answer on that point.

As far as support for Glasgow is concerned, I point out that Glasgow City Council receives the highest level of per capita support of any mainland local authority. I accept that Glasgow faces significant problems—that is why Glasgow City Council is at the top of the league for Government support.

The equalities statement will be published at the start of next week. I imagine that it will be the subject of scrutiny by the Equal Opportunities Committee, and if the committee wishes to discuss it with me, I will of course be happy to appear before it.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Should I be surprised that I find myself holding in one hand a document that outlines yet another increase in the motorways and trunk roads budget and in the other a carbon assessment that does not even count the emissions arising from transport infrastructure? Am I really expected to believe that the carbon impact of the motorways and trunk roads budget is less than half that of the Scottish Public Pensions Agency?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The carbon assessment that the Government has developed is an initiative to examine public expenditure and its relation to emissions. When it comes to carbon assessment, there are many measures of carbon impact, which are published by the Government on a host of occasions. If Mr Harvie has suggestions about how any of our analyses could be enhanced, I look forward to discussing them with him.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Over the past year, many communities across Scotland have benefited from town centre regeneration funding, and many hope to benefit when the next tranche is announced in October. I notice from the budget that the cabinet secretary does not intend to continue the funding into the next financial year. Will he reconsider his decision, given that such funding has the potential to be extremely beneficial to many communities in Glasgow that will struggle as a result of some of his other decisions?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

When the town centre regeneration fund was announced during last year's budget process, it was explained that it was a one-year tranche of funding. If Patricia Ferguson and her colleagues wish to advance the argument that a further year of such funding should be provided, I will be happy to consider it, as it is a reasonable idea—indeed, I respectfully suggest that it is a great deal more reasonable than half the other stuff that Labour members have come up with today.

The city of Glasgow received £5 million in the first round of town centre regeneration funding. Mr Neil and the panel that considers such matters will look at the applications in due course. It is reasonable to consider an extension of the existing fund, but if we were to increase the resources that we allocate to it, we would have to take resources away from another part of the budget.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Will the cabinet secretary's request for local authorities to take a pro rata share of the chancellor's cuts impact on the capital city supplement? I give notice now that if he does think that, I might not go for the standstill budget that I was looking for after I hear what Glasgow is to get.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Well, there we are: the usual fascinating contribution.

I say to Margo MacDonald that I made clear in my statement that the resources for the capital city supplement were part of the announcements on the various parts of the Government's programme that would be sustained in 2010-11. Therefore, there is no question of the situation that she expressed concern about coming to pass.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Does the cabinet secretary not understand that ditching GARL is woefully short-sighted, as it scraps a project that is an essential component of national economic development—one that would help to sustain recovery and which was unanimously agreed to by this Parliament? Will the cabinet secretary take it from me that Glasgow citizens will see his decision as a direct attack on the city, which will be unreservedly resisted by Labour and, I hope, others in this Parliament?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I hear what Bill Butler says, but I am the person sitting in this seat who has to ensure that we have a sustainable capital programme in the future. Not one member of the Labour Party has been able to answer the question of what we do in 2011-12, when there will be a fresh £129 million reduction in the capital budget. That is a given, going by the information that is available to us.

If Mr Butler has looked at the capital investment profile for the years to come—I apologise to Parliament for repeating this information, but it needs to be repeated—he will know that the Treasury projection shows a 13 per cent reduction in capital budgets in 2012-13 and a further 17.4 per cent reduction in 2013-14.

The Glasgow airport rail link would take a number of years to construct, and there would be capital expenditure over a number of years. I appreciate the strength of feeling, but choices have to be made. Every minister in the UK Government—which I remind my Labour colleagues is a Labour Government—is now going around talking about difficult choices that have to be made. This Government has faced up to those choices and will take the decisions forward.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I call Des McNulty, to be followed by Charlie Gordon, and advise both members that they should ask extremely brief questions.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

How much of the £87 million reduction in funding for major public transport projects in 2010-11 is attributable to the cancellation of GARL, and how much financial support will be provided to fastlink? Will fastlink go to Clydebank as well as the Southern general hospital and Glasgow airport?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We will engage in discussions with Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde partnership for transport about the development of fastlink. We think that it offers a strong connection across the city, which addresses the need to ensure that we have a connected environment, particularly because of the requirements of the Commonwealth games.

I appreciate the concern on the Labour benches about the Glasgow airport rail link. Forgive me, however, for taking issue with the fact that I am being lectured by the self-same people who lectured me about the Edinburgh tram project—look at what that project has become.

Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour

How much money, over all the years of phasing, will be saved by cancelling the Glasgow airport rail link? Exactly what proportion of that sum will be spent on other projects in Glasgow and the west of Scotland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

In one of my previous answers, I gave a list of the various projects that are currently being invested in to improve the transport infrastructure in and around the city of Glasgow. We will take forward the further investment in fastlink to assist in that process.

The latest estimate of the cost of the Glasgow airport rail link was £397.5 million. I point out that the other investments that the Government is making in transport infrastructure in and around the city of Glasgow look to me to be worth well over £2.5 billion. The Government is making a significant investment in capital projects in the city of Glasgow.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I have no more time left for questions to the minister, even though I extended this session by six minutes. I apologise to those who were not called.