John Swinney accused of ‘hiding’ spending cuts

JOHN Swinney has been accused of trying to hide plans for spending cuts until after the referendum by Labour after the party claimed he had delayed Scotland’s budget for 2015-16 by up to six weeks.
Finance Secretary John Swinney. Picture: JPFinance Secretary John Swinney. Picture: JP
Finance Secretary John Swinney. Picture: JP

The finance secretary’s draft budget is normally published in early September, when the proposals face scrutiny by MSPs through Holyrood’s committee system and in the parliament’s main chamber.

However, Mr Swinney has delayed the publication of the government’s spending plans until October, as parliament is in recess until 21 September prior to the referendum.

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Labour’s shadow finance secretary Iain Gray claimed the budget was postponed longer than was necessary after a letter from Holyrood’s finance committee suggested the spending plans will be published by 30 October.

He claimed this was preventing MSPs having the normal period of scrutiny of the budget as the deepest cuts to public services yet start to take effect during 2015-16.

Mr Gray said: “John Swinney needs to explain what he is hiding in next year’s budget. Why is he so intent on making sure that he publishes his draft budget after the referendum.”

However, a Scottish Government spokeswoman rejected Mr Gray’s claims, saying the timing had been changed to reflect the parliamentary recess.

She said: “We are proposing to publish the draft budget in October to reflect the fact parliament will be in recess when the budget would traditionally be published.”