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4 February 2015, 15:59
John Swinney said he has put Scotland's youngsters at the heart of his Budget plans, announcing extra cash will be made available to councils which make a "clear commitment'' not to cut teacher numbers.
The Deputy First Minister said that in addition to the £41 million already announced for such a commitment, he will make an extra £10 million available.
But he warned local authorities that any council which fails to maintain teacher numbers in its local area would have its share of the funding "clawed back'' by the Scottish Government.
He announced the move after the number of teachers fell last year, with the ratio of pupils to teachers in classrooms increasing slightly.
This is "not acceptable'', the Deputy First Minister said.
After statistics published yesterday showed the NHS in Scotland failed to meet targets for treating 95% of accident and emergency patients within four hours, he also used his Budget speech at Holyrood to reveal more money for health spending.
An extra £127 million is being made available, taking the total additional spending on the NHS for 2015-16 to £383 million, Mr Swinney said.
Scotland's total health budget will top £12 billion for the first time ever next year, with Mr Swinney insisting it is "real investment, not warm words, for our NHS''.
He told Holyrood: "The health of our population and the education of our young people are two of the most important responsibilities of government and they are at the top of our priorities.
"A vote for the Budget today will see an additional £127 million of extra spending for front-line healthcare in our NHS. That will take our total additional frontline investment for 2015-16 to £383 million as part of a total NHS budget in excess of £12 billion, and every penny of that money will help our front-line services."
He added: "The education of Scotland's children is the key to both their future and to the future of Scotland. Our investment in schools and in teachers forms a critical part of this effort but we can and will do more.
"When sufficient funding is available to support the employment of teachers it cannot be acceptable that the numbers of teachers declined slightly last year and the ratio of pupils to teachers rose slightly.
"To help ensure delivery of the teacher numbers commitment and in recognition of the general budget pressures authorities are facing, I am providing a further #10 million for 2015-16 in addition to the #41 million previously allocated to support this commitment.
"In order to protect that investment in teacher numbers this total resource of #51 million will only be available to local authorities on a council by council basis if they are prepared to sign up to a clear commitment to protect teacher numbers. Any council that does not make and deliver on that commitment will not benefit from that funding.''