BY THE CABINET SECRETARY FOR FINANCE AND SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
The Purpose of the Scottish Government is to focus our resources on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. The Government Economic Strategy has set out a clear and achievable way forward and this document now provides more detail of how our spending plans over the next three years will help deliver that Purpose - greater prosperity and opportunity - for the people of Scotland.
We now face a period of much lower growth in public spending than in recent years, a position made more difficult by significant inherited spending pressures from the previous administration. The settlement we have received from the UK Treasury for the next three years is the worst since devolution, and particularly tight in 2008-09. To help, we have secured an unprecedented agreement to make full use of Scotland's money currently held at the UK Treasury. In order to ensure we deliver the most from our people's money, we have set a challenging, and achievable, target of 2 per cent cash-releasing efficiencies each year. This will ensure that £1.6 billion of taxpayers' money can be redirected over the next three years, allowing us to do more for the people of our nation.
This Budget is about delivery in these tight financial times. It is about taking the right decisions needed to ensure maximum resources flow to boosting our economy and investing in our public services, bringing clear benefits for all of Scotland.
Our spending plans will cut business rates for our small companies; put more police on Scotland's streets; deliver smaller class sizes in P1 to P3; expand pre-school provision; provide more support for carers; provide funding for a council tax freeze; improve the commute for many, including reduced rail journey times between our major cities; reduce waiting times for patients; expand support for drug rehabilitation; increase funding on renewable energy; enhance financial support for Scotland's students, universities and colleges and more.
We are clearly focused on Scottish success. Our plans will deliver a wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer and stronger and greener Scotland.
The development of a new and much more productive relationship with local government, recognising the unique role it plays in the delivery of public services and the achievement of our Purpose, is central to our plans. We want to liberate local government from micro-management by national government and enable local councils to have greater flexibility and responsibility for their actions. This new partnership is set within the context of a new performance framework which will allow us more clearly and openly to demonstrate our performance as a government and sharpen the focus of all those responsible for public service delivery, in national and local government, for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
I am proud to deliver the first Budget of the new Scottish Government. It is our social democratic contract with the people of our country and an important first step towards greater national success. Our plans will create a stronger, more confident and prosperous Scotland and that is what the people of Scotland deserve.
John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth