Draft Budget 2014-15

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th December 2013.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I am attracted by Bob Doris’s call for massive investment in childcare, and my party advocates that. However, nothing prevents us from acting now on two-year-olds. We have suggested a modest, phased programme; some members seem to take an all-or-nothing approach. I am slightly disappointed that Bob Doris seems to dispute that we can act now, because I have held him up as a champion on the issue. I think that we can move forward together and achieve our ambitions. Perhaps we can put aside some of our differences about the longer term and, in this budget, achieve the objectives that I know that we both want to achieve.

The Finance Committee has been persistent in raising issues that it raised in previous years, and there is probably an element of frustration in the report in relation to, for example, how much money has been switched from revenue to capital and from traditional to preventative spend. The issues are opaque. I understand John Swinney’s point that we should focus on outcomes rather than where the money comes from and disinvestment, but if there is to be genuine change in how we deliver public services we need to know where the money is coming from, so that we can develop services that can endure over the long term.

We know that Scotland faces considerable challenges, not just because of the demographics, but in tackling poverty and ensuring that we meet our environmental objectives. Enduring on all those things means that we need evidence of a proper seismic shift of investment from one area to the other. I would therefore encourage John Swinney to be more open and transparent about the shift from traditional spend to preventative spend, and from revenue to capital spend. That way, we will see that we have an enduring, long-term shift in the delivery of public services.