Westminster budget "will cost Scotland jobs" - Salmond

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FIRST Minister Alex Salmond today stepped up the pressure on Westminster to abandon "damaging" public spending cuts which would cost thousands of Scottish jobs.

The SNP leader said the impact on services of the efficiency measures expected in tomorrow's Budget address by Chancellor Alistair Darling would cost Scotland 500 million a year.

Mr Salmond suggested that ditching the Trident nuclear weapons programme, ID cards and involvement in "illegal wars" could more than cover the savings needed during an address to the STUC in Perth today.

He told delegates at today's conference: "Cuts can be made. But let's make sure that cuts are not made to things that are vital to our communities.

"Cuts in health, in housing, in education – these are all budgets that will come under pressure and are under pressure as a result of recession.

"They are not the right way to move at the present moment."

The First Minister warned that the cuts proposed are more than the entire prison service budget in Scotland, more than the housing budget and just under the whole enterprise and tourism budget.

"Such a removal is massive if it takes place and will be massively damaging to the Scottish economy," the First Minister added.

"It would cost 9,000 jobs if such funds were taken out of the Scottish economy."

In addition half of the jobs created by the Government's 350 million fiscal stimulus would be "removed".

He described the measures as a "top slicing from public spending" and rejected claims they are "efficiencies".

The First Minister added: "It's not efficiency savings – they're cuts that are being proposed."

Mr Salmond also told delegates that 150 million has been earmarked as the first step towards creating a Scottish Investment Bank – an idea the Government took from an STUC proposal.

The new set-up will support business growth by bringing together Scottish Enterprise's existing Scottish Co-investment Fund, Scottish Venture Fund and Scottish Seed Fund.

Mr Salmond said: "The Scottish Government is using every lever at our disposal to protect jobs, protect skills, protect businesses and families through the downturn.

"Today's announcement will see the first steps towards a Scottish Investment Bank, pulling together Scottish Enterprise and European funding to support businesses with the growth potential to help Scotland make a strong economic recovery."

A 20 million award from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) towards the Scottish Venture fund was also announced by the Government today.