Swinney Warns Of "Tough" Budget

Finance Secretary John Swinney has warned Scotland faces "tough choices'' as he prepares to set out his Budget in the wake of the UK Government's spending review.

Mr Swinney said decisions taken by Chancellor George Osborne placed unprecedented pressure on public expenditure north of the border.

Labour challenged the Deputy First Minister to follow through on anti-austerity "posturing'' when he details the Scottish Government's plans for 2016-17 on Wednesday.

The party said Mr Swinney's Budget, to be delivered ahead of the introduction of the Scottish rate of income tax in April, would be the most significant since devolution.

The Scottish Government said that the combination of cuts imposed since 2010 and last month's spending review meant that by 2019-20 its discretionary budget will be 12.5% lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.

Mr Swinney said 4.2% of that reduction would come between now and 2019-20.

He said: "The Chancellor has imposed real terms cuts on Scotland every year from now until 2020, and more than a billion pounds of those cuts are still to come between now and the end of the decade.

"We have demonstrated that the UK Government didn't have to take this approach. Debt and the deficit could have been reduced without this scale of cuts that has been chosen by the Chancellor.

"Now Scotland has to deal with the reality of the Chancellor's decision. We face tough choices in the coming days.

"Against this backdrop, the Scottish Government is determined that we will defend and protect the key priorities that the people of Scotland expect us to deliver on.''

Mr Swinney said schools, hospitals and the police service in Scotland "will not be sacrificed to the Chancellor's austerity obsession''.

He added: "In recent years we have been able to deliver better outcomes for the people of Scotland. More police, lower crime, better schools, tuition-free university education and a health budget that is at a record level.

"These commitments demonstrate the prioritisation of the Scottish Government.''

Labour's public services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: "Ahead of the most important budget since devolution it's time John Swinney backed up his anti-austerity posturing with something real.

"Telling us about pre-election giveaways now and cuts later isn't good enough. This needs to be a long term budget.

"Scotland needs a government that spends less time congratulating itself on its spin and more time explaining its record.

"Scottish Labour will offer a real alternative to austerity, with different decisions on tax to the Tories, and different decisions on tax to the SNP.''

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