Budget Measures (Community Resilience and Wellbeing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4 February 2021.

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Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what measures in its draft budget will help build the resilience and wellbeing of Scotland’s communities. (S5O-04977)

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

The published draft budget proposes a range of measures important to resilience, wellbeing, recovery and renewal for our people and communities, including support for jobs, skills, businesses and health services. That includes £100 million for the green jobs fund, £98.2 million to improve digital connectivity and £1.9 billion for primary healthcare to help deliver more services in the community.

Other measures include £81 million committed to regeneration programmes for the next financial year, including the £13.6 million empowering communities programme, which enables communities to tackle poverty and inequality on their own terms. The budget will also provide investment in local and national third sector infrastructure, supporting the capacity and growth of social enterprises.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I particularly welcome the recent investment in North Lanarkshire Council, and across Scotland, from the regeneration capital grant fund. As well as mitigating the impact of United Kingdom Government welfare cuts, what other action is the Scottish Government taking to tackle deep-seated poverty and inequality?

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

The member is right to point out the amount of work that we do to mitigate. That does not rest easy with us, because we do not want to be always mitigating the acts of another Government. The action that we have taken on our own terms includes committing more than £500 million to protect people and communities that have been impacted by Covid and providing more than £200 million to local authorities from consequential funds, which includes increased investment in the Scottish welfare fund, discretionary housing payments and third sector community organisations across the country.

The budget also continues significant investment to tackle poverty and inequality and strengthen public services, including £23.3 million for our tackling child poverty fund and £68 million for the game-changing Scottish child payment, which will begin payments for children under six later this month. Investment in that new benefit is part of almost £3.6 billion of investment next year in Scottish social security and wider social support that will be delivered via local government.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Ensuring that local authorities are funded properly is key to protecting wellbeing and rebuilding after the pandemic. The recent budget will mean that councils will require to make cuts to organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland. Those cuts would not be necessary if councils were given a fair deal—the type of deal that was suggested ahead of the budget last week. If the cabinet secretary will not provide funding to Scotland’s councils, what will she do to ensure that the Government protects vital services and prevents them from being eroded?

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

I have set out a number of ways in which we support activities to help to protect the most vulnerable, who are the most impacted by the actions of the UK Government that the member supports. Those actions include, for instance, not uprating universal credit, which we have continually asked for.

Forby all that, as my colleague Kate Forbes set out last week, the budget for the local government settlement is £11.6 billion, and that continues to provide local government with a funding settlement that is fair and affordable.

The budget has several stages to go through, so if the member wants to suggest any further activity or any shifts on those budget lines, he should engage with me or with Kate Forbes directly. We will continue to work with our third sector partners, including Citizens Advice Scotland, to make sure that they can continue to deliver the advice, support and help that is so necessary, particularly at this time. We will always look to make sure that we can provide longer-term funding to local government and the third sector. It would be useful if we were given the benefit of the same approach by the UK Government in the way that it indicates its budget settlement to the Scottish Government.