John Swinney urged to be ‘bolder’ on jobs as he unveils budget plan
JOHN Swinney is under pressure from business leaders and opposition MSPs to deliver a Budget to boost investment in jobs and reduce taxes on business as Scotland’s finance secretary prepares to set out his spending plans for the next year.
The finance secretary insisted the SNP was “investing as much as we can” in infrastructure projects to create jobs and revive Scotland’s economy.
Mr Swinney is due to unveil his draft budget for 2013-14 in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, in the week after official figures showed a sharp rise in unemployment in Scotland of 4,000 to 223,000 in the period May to June. Scotland’s unemployment rate is 8.2 per cent, just above the average of 8.1 per cent for the whole of the UK, according to the job centre figures.
Scottish business leader David Lonsdale yesterday called on Mr Swinney to use his draft budget, to be finalised in early 2013, to create investment opportunities for firms during the next year.
Mr Lonsdale, CBI Scotland assistant director, said: “There remains a pressing need for the devolved government to sustain investment in and support for the economy.
“A bolder approach to making savings and promoting competition is needed in order to keep business taxes down and protect important GDP-enhancing investments in infrastructure, skills development, and export support.”
Mr Swinney’s draft budget of more than £28 billion for 2012-13 included £1.5bn for the Forth Replacement Crossing and £840 million for Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital projects were confirmed in John Swinney’s budget yesterday.
But Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman Ken Macintosh called on him to include an additional package of extra investment in building projects to tackle unemployment.
He said: “Scotland’s joblessness is higher than the rest of the UK and it is about time we saw an ambitious government-led employment programme.
“We want the UK government to change tack and to release funds for capital investment, but that does not excuse the Scottish Government from making wrong choices with the funds at its disposal.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “We will be looking to protect the budgetary commitments we won last year in the areas of colleges, house building and early intervention for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown called on Mr Swinney to scrap the tax on large stores that sell alcohol and tobacco. Mr Brown said: “It is time for them to stop harming areas that help economic growth such as housing and colleges, and stops introducing Scotland-only taxes such as the damaging retail levy.”
Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government is doing all that it can to stimulate growth, most recently announcing a £105 million package to boost the economy and construction and with an additional £485m of investment confirmed over the last year.”
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