Draft Budget 2014-15

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

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Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

No, thank you.

Mr Gray is yet to give us a coherent understanding of where he would get the extra £30 million to top up the £20 million that the cabinet secretary has identified to deal with the bedroom tax, but I am sure that that will come in time.

Malcolm Chisholm obviously has more faith in the UK Treasury than I have. His remarks and his quotation of Danny Alexander fall some way short of the guarantee that I would seek that the block grant will not be touched. He is right to say that how Mr Swinney chooses to spend the block grant is a matter for Mr Swinney. We need only look at the recent episode regarding public sector pensions, whereby the cabinet secretary was sent a letter from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that made it clear in no uncertain terms that, if he pursued a different approach on public sector pensions, he would see the block grant reduced on a pound-for-pound basis. In that context, I have little faith in the UK Treasury when it comes to the flexibility that Malcolm Chisholm is looking for.

Mr Chisholm claimed that the argument about where revenues from the childcare policy and the shift of people into work would go is a self-defeating one. The point is that if we use the revenues that the policy would generate to underpin, guarantee and fund that policy in the longer term, that is a critical element of the argument about the policy. We cannot deliver the one without having the other available to us to fund it. That is why the argument that the Deputy First Minister makes is critical to the debate.

I sound a note of caution to the Labour Party on its enthusiasm for the use of consequentials. We must remember that the current consequentials exist in the budget for only the next two financial years. We also do not know what shifts may take place in the overall departmental expenditure limit budget over those two years. The point that I make to Mr Gray—it is simply a note of caution—is that suggesting that a long-term policy could be funded on the basis of non-guaranteed and not necessarily recurring revenue to the Scottish Government is fraught with difficulty.