Public Finances (North East Scotland)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th March 2019.

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Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

1. To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that its management of the public finances takes account of the needs of the people of the North East Scotland region. (S5O-03068)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

The 2019-20 budget maintains our social contract, provides support for the economy and protects public services for the people of the north-east and all of Scotland. The north-east will also benefit from city deal funding for Aberdeen, access to the new £50 million town centre fund and extended transitional business rates relief for offices in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Although those points are welcome, the minister must be aware that Grampian NHS Board is the worst-funded health board in the country and that Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council are the second and third-worst funded councils. Coupled with that, the Scottish Government has underfunded Grampian NHS Board by £239 million over the past 10 years under its own funding formula. How long does the minister believe that the people of the north-east will put up with underfunding, particularly of the health board, which results in such long waits for treatment?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

Of course, Mr Rumbles entirely absented himself from all decisions on public finances during the budget process. For the second year running, NHS Grampian will receive the highest uplift of any territorial board, taking its funding to £958 million in 2019-20. That is an increase of more than 64 per cent under this Government. Over the past five years, NHS Grampian has received more than £56 million for the specific purpose of moving towards NHS Scotland resource allocation committee parity.

Photo of Bill Bowman Bill Bowman Conservative

The Audit Scotland report, “NHS in Scotland 2018”, states that there was a total maintenance backlog of £899 million in 2017-18 and that

“45% of all backlog maintenance is classed as significant or high risk”.

In NHS Tayside, in the North East Scotland region, 74 per cent of such maintenance is classed as significant or high risk. Will the Scottish Government commit to allocating NHS Tayside funding, so that my constituents’ needs are met? In Angus and Dundee, they do not receive the healthcare—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you; thank you. I did ask you to be brief—there is no point warbling on.

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

The member will be fully aware that the Scottish Government is committed to increased funding for the NHS and to driving a programme of reform, to ensure that everybody in Scotland gets access to the health services that they need.

I have already outlined to Mike Rumbles the increased finances in this year’s budget, particularly how much additional funding has been made available to NHS Grampian to ensure that there is adequate support for health services in the north-east.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

In the north-east and, indeed, across the country, small businesses account for 98 per cent of our business community, yet a recent Federation of Small Businesses report revealed that only about 20 per cent of Scotland’s £12 billion procurement budget goes directly to small and medium-sized enterprises. What action will the minister take to improve small businesses’ share of our procurement pot?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

We are committed to supporting small businesses—we have the most generous rates relief in the entire United Kingdom, which includes taking 100,000 small businesses out of paying rates altogether.

I agree with Jackie Baillie that getting the procurement policy right often allows small businesses to get their foot in the door. We have committed to change and to reconsidering how we do procurement. One of our most exciting initiatives is the CivTech programme, which allows us to totally rethink procurement and give small entrepreneurs, in particular, the opportunity to get public sector contracts and, as I said, get their foot in the door.