Last week the Scottish Parliament approved the SNP’s Budget Bill - with the support of the Greens - for 2017-18. An unholy ‘Bitter Together’ alliance of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems voted against.
They voted against an increase in support for North Ayrshire Council from £279,443,000 this year to £304,358,000 in 2017-18. Included in that sum was £4,392,000 directly to head teachers of North Ayrshire schools to spend as they see fit to improve attainment, with, for example, £124,800 for Ardrossan Academy, £181,200 for St Matthew's Academy and £182,400 for Stanley Primary School.
Across Scotland £120 million was committed, £20 million more than pledged in last year’s SNP manifesto, showing just how seriously we take the attainment gap in education.
In the current financial year, NAC received £279,443,000 in support from the SNP Government. From the new financial year beginning in April this will grow to £304,358,000, an 8.9% increase; the highest in Scotland!
Should NAC choose to impose a council tax increase across the board - which we have capped at 3% given it increased by 75% under Labour in the decade to 2007 - that would generate a further £1,808,000.
I would like to pay tribute to the Greens for their constructive engagement during the negotiation process. As a consequence we will now deliver a fair and balanced settlement including SNP Government priorities over the next year and increased funding for local government.
The budget for Police Scotland will not only be protected in real terms, i.e. after inflation, a further £25 million will support the delivery of a police service capable of meeting the changing demands of crime and society over the next decade.
For the NHS, an additional £304 million in funding fulfils another manifesto commitment to increase spending on our treasured health service in real terms. NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s Budget will grow to a record £682,100,000 from April. Mental Health spending will increase from £39,454,000 last year to £52,186,000 in 2017-18 - an increase of 32.3%. Remember, Labour shamefully pledged in its manifesto last year that not a single extra penny was to be invested in the NHS.
To help fulfil our commitment to provide 30 free hours of high quality childcare a week by 2020, we allocated £60 million to invest in the workforce and the infrastructure required to achieve this. To mitigate the disastrous Tory Government Bedroom Tax, we have provided £47 million – and have no doubts about it, when we receive the powers to do so, we will abolish this l tax altogether.
For business we extended the Small Business Bonus Scheme, meaning that no business will pay any rates if its rateable value is £15,000 or less, lifting 100,000 small and medium sized business properties out of business rates altogether. The current threshold is £10,000, whilst the rate poundage was cut by 3.7%. We also established a new £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme to help attract investment, promote innovation and improve productivity. And in the week that the final section of the vital new Queensferry Crossing was lowered into place, we gave the green light to invest £4,000 million years in infrastructure next year, £600 million going towards the construction of 10,000 new affordable homes.
£114 million was allocated to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency, an 11% increase on this year’s £103 million.
As the SNP and Green MSPs delivered this Budget, the other parties criticised but produced no alternative proposals and simply carped from the sidelines. The SNP promised to invest in our public services, infrastructure and in our people. We are delivering on that promise.