Scotland ‘faces £1.5bn cut after Chancellor’s review’

John Swinney. Picture: Julie Bull

John Swinney. Picture: Julie Bull

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NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that Scotland is facing a 
£1.5 billion budget cut by the end of the decade as a result of the Chancellor’s spending review.

Frontline services are likely to suffer after George Osborne effectively imposed a new climate of “needless austerity” over the next four years when he set out his spending plans in the Commons.

“The spending review represents a continuation of the UK government’s failed austerity programme,” the First Minister told MSPs yesterday.

“As a result, the UK government’s cuts to day-to-day funding in Scotland will be cut by almost six per cent over the next four years – that represents a cut of over £1.5bn in real terms.

“I think these further cuts are damaging. They are needless, they will continue to hit the poorest hardest.”

Finance Secretary John Swinney will set out the detail of how he plans to manage the reductions when he announces his 2016-17 Budget next month.

It is expected that the cuts will fall hardest on areas such as justice, local government, the environment, care, employment and parts of the education system outside schools.

Mr Swinney told MSPs that, taken together with the cuts in recent years, his total budget by 2019-20 will be £3.9bn – or 12.5 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.

“The scale of the cuts is unnecessary,” Mr Swinney said.

He continued: “The Chancellor has continued to pursue an ideologically driven programme of austerity.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do all that it can to protect the most vulnerable in society from the UK’s austerity programme and will continue to pressure the UK government to reverse these cuts.”

But Ms Sturgeon yesterday came under pressure to do more to support Scottish homebuilding after the Chancellor’s plans set out the biggest housebuilding drive in a generation south of the Border.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed the SNP government’s help-to-buy scheme north of the Border was facing reductions of up to 50 per cent and compared it with the Mr Osborne’s promise to build 400,000 new homes and extend help-to-buy in England.

“The truth of the matter is this, the number of new homes built each year is down 40 per cent from the time the SNP took office, 10,000 fewer homes built in Scotland,” Ms Davidson said.

“And we know now that her ministers are about to halve the help-to-buy scheme in Scotland, ripping £65 million of help away from first-time buyers. In short this SNP government is slashing support for home-building and it’s slashing support for home buying.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “What an utter cheek, what an utter cheek for a Scottish Conservative to stand in this chamber the day after George Osborne’s cuts to this parliament’s budget were announced and utter the words cuts. It’s absolutely unbelievable.”

scott.macnab@jpress.co.uk