SNP attacked for ‘pouring money down the drain’ over independence referendum dream

Nicola Sturgeon outlines 'frustrations' at budget allocation

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MSPs this afternoon debated the Scottish Government’s draft tax and spending plans for the coming year at Holyrood. With UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak due to unveil his Budget next week, Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said there would likely be further changes to her own proposals.

The draft budget for 2021-22, unveiled by Ms Forbes last month, promises a record funding of £16 billion for the NHS in Scotland, while local authorities will also get money to freeze council tax.

But the minority SNP administration needs to win the support of at least one other party at Holyrood to pass the budget.

She told MSPs: “My overarching objective is to support the people of Scotland through these most challenging of months.”

But opposition politicians hit out at the prospect of wasting taxpayers money – especially with SNP demands for another independence vote.

Neil Findlay accused the SNP-led Government of taking deliberate political decisions that dismiss the poor because they were more unlikely to vote.

The Scottish Labour MSP then said: “I have no doubt that the cabinet secretary will trot out her well-rehearsed lines about where the money will come from if we want to do other things.

“The Government pours money down the drain as if there is no tomorrow.”

Listing examples, Mr Findlay cited that taxpayers’ money was spent on 

SNP led Government officials are currently preparing draft legislation setting out the timetable and question of a potential second Scottish independence referendum within weeks.

The draft Bill – promised in the legislative programme First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out last year – is due to be published before the Scottish Parliament enters recess next month in the run-up to the Holyrood election.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said it was “grossly insulting” the Scottish Government was “devoting time to this during a public health pandemic that is claiming lives.”

She stressed the SNP “would never stop its negative campaign to divide the people of Scotland, so we must continue to make the positive case for remaining part of the UK.”

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Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser insisted his party would not back the budget plans.

He said: “This is not a Budget we can support, because it falls short of what the Scottish people and Scottish society requires.”

Mr Fraser stressed the Tories wanted to see funding for councils rise “at least” in line with the funding the Scottish Government receives.

The Fife MSP later added: “If the SNP win a majority in May, nothing will stop them hiking up taxes to pay for their political priorities including a second divisive independence referendum this year.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said his party wanted to see more changes to the Budget before it could support it in next month’s crucial final vote.

He said he had told Ms Forbes his party was “on the hunt for more”, as he urged her to give more cash to local government and for mental health services.

Meanwhile, Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said his party would “continue working toward budget changes to achieve improvement for Scotland’s people, both in the immediate crisis in household incomes and in the long term drive for a green recovery”.

MSPs backed the Budget (Scotland) (No.5) Bill at Stage One by 88 votes to 31, with five abstentions.

A Conservative amendment insisting that the draft Budget failed to “meet the level of funding required by local authorities” was rejected by 53 votes to 62, with 10 abstentions.

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