More than £50m of the Scottish Government’s 2019 Budget to go unspent

Economy secretary Derek Mackay delivers the Scottish Government's Stage 1 budget at the Scottish Parliament this week. Picture: PA
Economy secretary Derek Mackay delivers the Scottish Government's Stage 1 budget at the Scottish Parliament this week. Picture: PA
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More than £50 million of cash in the Scottish Government’s Budget for the coming year will go unspent, it has emerged.

Independent analysts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said of the £148 million additional cash due to Holyrood from the UK Government, £54 million was remaining and would go into the Scottish reserves.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the cash should have gone to councils “to make up for years of SNP cuts”.

He accused the Greens, whose six MSPs will back the Budget after reaching a deal with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, of being “inept” in the negotiations.

The Liberal Democrats refused to enter budget talks with the Government, saying they would only meet for discussions if ministers pledged not to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence before May 2021.

In his amended tax and spending proposals, unveiled to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Mr Mackay pledged an additional £90 million for local government.

Overall, the Finance Secretary said his “enhanced package” would allow councils to spend up to £187 million more than the original £11.1 billion local government settlement.

As well as the additional funding, authorities will also be able to raise council tax by 4.79%, with authorities also set to get the option of introducing a tourist tax on hotel stays, as well as a levy on work place car parking.

Spice confirmed that when funding ring-fenced for specific services is taken out of the equation, the amount of cash councils have control over is down by £230.7 million.

Spice also noted that of the £148 million additional funding coming from Westminster under the Barnett formula, which allocates public cash across the UK, £90 million would go to councils while an additional £4 million would go on health.

“The remaining £54 million will go into the Scotland reserve,” the Spice blog stated.

That prompted Mr Rennie to hit out at the Greens and their Scottish co-convener Patrick Harvie, saying they had allowed this cash to “be added to the SNP’s rainy-day fund instead of going on public services”.

Mr Rennie said: “How inept for the Greens to not even be able to get all of the money that was on offer to them.

“Instead they have agreed to cut adult social care by £50 million.

“That is an appalling attack on services that the elderly and vulnerable rely on.

“This is money that the Greens and SNP should have made sure went to councils to make up for years of SNP cuts.”

Mr Mackay said his 2019-20 budget would result in “the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution”, with additional cash going to support local services.

Alison Evison, president of local government body Cosla, said the Budget deal “doesn’t mitigate all of our funding issues” and “challenges still remain” for councils.

Mr Harvie claimed “real progress” had been made in reforming local taxes, with councils getting more control over council tax, powers for a transient visitor levy and a workplace parking tax.

In addition to this, the Scottish Government has pledged to set up a cross-party group to look at finding an alternative to the current council tax system, which could result in legislation after the 2021 Scottish elections.