Scottish Budget Plans To Be Revealed
12 December 2018, 09:43 | Updated: 12 December 2018, 09:44
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will reveal his tax and spending plans for next year from "under the shadow of the UK Government's chaotic approach to Brexit".
Mr Mackay warned of the economic threat leaving the European Union brings, saying this could impact on public services and "risks making us all poorer".
He pledged to protect public services while highlighting the "devastating impacts" of the UK Govenrment's austerity programme.
Mr Mackay has already ruled out following the example of UK Chancellor Philip Hammond and raising the threshold for the higher rate of income tax to £50,000.
After the devolution of some powers over income tax to Scotland, the Finance Secretary made changes last year resulting in higher earners paying more than their counterparts south of the border - while those on a lower income had their tax bill cut.
Mr Mackay said his latest budget statement would "set out how we will prepare the country for the future".
He added: "Our spending plans for the year ahead will include long-term strategic investments that allow us to protect our essential public services, boost our economy and deliver on our commitments to the people of Scotland.
"Despite the UK Government's promises, this budget will be set against a backdrop of continuing UK austerity which has devastating impacts on the most vulnerable in our communities.
"This is also a budget presented under the shadow of the UK government's chaotic approach to Brexit, which hangs over our economy, our public services and risks making us all poorer in the future."
With the SNP having brought in tax hikes for some Scots in 2018-19, the Tories are calling on ministers to refrain from further increases in 2019-20
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser urged Mr Mackay to instead "address the widening gap between tax rates in Scotland and the rest of the UK".
He said: "This budget is a massive opportunity for the SNP Government.
"Thanks to decisions made by the Conservative UK Budget, he has an extra £950 million in his back pocket to spend.
"There is no need to keep driving up taxes. Mr Mackay can choose instead to back economic growth."
With the SNP forming a minority administration at Holyrood, the Finance Secretary needs to win the support of at least one of the four opposition parties for his proposals to be passed.
The Scottish Greens have backed his budget for the last two years - but this year the party has yet to enter formal talks with the SNP, citing a lack of progress in reforming local taxation as the reason.
Co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "The Greens have been clear for months now about our priorities for protecting local services and cutting inequality.
"Derek Mackay is leaving it dangerously late to give an indication of how he'll respond to our proposals."
Meanwhile, Labour want the SNP to commit to increasing child benefit in Scotland by £5 a week and a freeze on rail fares, as well as an improved funding deal for local councils.
Finance spokesman James Kelly told Mr Mackay: "The time for tinkering at the edges is over. We need a real change of direction in this budget."
The Liberal Democrats have already ended their budget talks with the Scottish Government, saying SNP ministers had refused to "put aside their campaign for independence".
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said: "The last thing we need just now with all the chaos of Brexit is more chaos with another campaign for independence.
"We should be focusing on the big issues that matter for the country. We've walked away from the talks for now. But the door is still open.
"If the SNP want to focus on the things that matter for the country the Liberal Democrats are there to help."