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DFM: Education lies at the heart of inclusive growth and tackling inequality.
This is a Budget that takes decisive action to deliver inclusive growth and support public services while protecting, not burdening, those on the lowest incomes, said Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney today (Wednesday) as the Budget Bill passed with a majority.
During the Budget Bill's final parliamentary stage, the Deputy First Minister announced an additional £80 million to support educational attainment. This will double the amount planned for the Attainment Scotland Fund over the next three years, to a total of £160 million.
Mr Swinney also confirmed that the Scottish Government will adjust the level of business rates relief available for empty properties and extend the fresh start and new start reliefs until April 2017. This will ensure Scotland continues to offer a competitive advantage for the majority of business ratepayers within the United Kingdom.
This budget protects public services and pursues ambitious plans for reform. It provides leadership to employers across the country by including plans to deliver a pay rise for around 50,000 of the lowest paid workers, including many in the public sector.
The Budget 2016-17 will:
- invest around £690 million in housing supply with an increase of around £90 million in affordable housing supply the first step in meeting the 50,000 new affordable homes by 2020-21 commitment
- provide almost £1 billion investment in roads and transport projects
- increase the health budget by £500 million to around £13 billion for the first time
- freeze council tax for a 9th consecutive year saving the average Band D household around £1,550 since 2007-08
- invest £250 million an integrated health and social care system, which will ensure our older citizens are able to access free personal care
- make energy efficiency a National Infrastructure Priority, reflecting the vital contribution that action in this area can make in tackling climate change and fuel poverty
- invest a further £115 million in Scotland's digital infrastructure to help towards our 2017 target to ensure 95 per cent of premises in Scotland have access to next generation broadband
- ensure higher education is based on students' ability to learn not their ability to pay, saving 120,000 students in Scotland up to £27,000 over the course of their degree
The Deputy First Minister said:
"Education lies at the heart of inclusive growth and tacking inequality, and we are determined to improve educational outcomes.
"Action to improve educational attainment is an absolute priority for the Government. Therefore, after careful consideration of the Budget, I am allocating an additional £80 million to support our efforts to boost educational attainment - doubling the investment over the next three years to a total of £160 million."
Mr Swinney added:
"My priority all along has been to deliver a Budget that takes decisive action to deliver inclusive growth and support public services and does so whilst protecting, not burdening, those on the lowest incomes: this is our Scottish alternative to UK Government austerity.
"Instead of increasing the tax burden, this Budget protects household incomes. We will reform our innovation landscape, invest £250 million to deliver the most significant reform to health and social care since the creation of the NHS in Scotland, and protect the frontline police resource budget with further funding to support continuing reform.
"I welcome the agreement of Scotland's local authorities to the Budget settlement which, when taken together as a package of funding, will enable them to increase the pace of reform and improve essential public services to communities all over the country."