MSPs urge clarity on Holyrood Budget spend

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow

Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow

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MSPs face the prospect of being asked to sign off on the Scottish Government’s spending plans without knowing how much money it will have to spend, a Holyrood committee has warned.

Holyrood’s Finance Committee has called on the Scottish and UK Governments to agree the size of Scotland’s block grant urgently before the Scottish Parliament votes on John Swinney’s Budget next month.

The SNP will introduce two new taxes in April - the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax - which will have an as yet unknown impact on the funding Scotland will receive from Westminster.

In its report on the Scottish Government’s budget proposals for 2015-16, the Finance Committee said it is “unacceptable that the Parliament is being asked to consider the draft Budget without knowing what impact the block grant adjustment may have on the government’s spending proposals”.

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The Committee also emphasised the need for greater transparency from both governments about future block grant adjustments arising from the devolution of further fiscal powers.

Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson said: “The parliament’s committees have carried out detailed scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s budget, but it is of concern that, with two new taxes coming into existence in April, we still don’t know how these taxes will impact on the block grant.

“The situation is particularly imperative as we ready ourselves for the devolution of additional tax powers following on from the Smith Report.

“I urge the UK and Scottish Governments to resolve the outstanding issue of the block grant settlement as a matter of urgency.

“Any adjustment to the block grant certainly needs to be finalised before the Parliament votes on the budget in February.”

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