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Scottish budget to be published on December 15, Swinney confirms

John Swinney will publish the draft Scottish budget for 2023-24 on December 15 (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
John Swinney will publish the draft Scottish budget for 2023-24 on December 15 (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

The Scottish Government will unveil its draft budget for the coming year on December 15.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney – who is responsible for the finance and economy brief while Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is on maternity leave – said he is “content to support” that date.

However he warned “ongoing turmoil and uncertainty” over the UK’s Government’s budget plans will have an “obvious impact” on the Scottish Government’s ability to draw up tax and spending proposals for 2023-24.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is not currently due to make a full budget statement to MPs until spring of next year.

A “mini-budget” from Mr Kwarteng in September sparked turmoil in the markets, eventually forcing a U-turn on plans to abolish the top rate of tax for the highest earners south of the border.

The Chancellor is due to set out the UK’s Medium-Term Fiscal Plan on November 23, with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) reports to be published on the same date likely to provide more information on funding to the Scottish Government.

Mr Swinney said ensuring the Scottish Government’s draft budget is ready just three weeks after this will be “exceptionally challenging”.

But amid speculation the UK Government could bring forward the November 23 announcement, he agreed to the December 15 date.

Holyrood’s Finance Committee had previously urged Mr Swinney to commit to publishing the draft budget on this date – with deputy convener Daniel Johnson insisting this is necessary to “protect time to achieve effective and meaningful parliamentary scrutiny” of the Scottish Government’s plans.

In a letter to Mr Johnson, the Deputy First Minister said: “It is crucial for us to have a clear plan in place for Scotland’s budget to provide certainty and reassurance, and collectively agreeing a date is welcome.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng will announce his Medium-Term Fiscal Plan on November 23 (Aaron Chown/PA)

“As it is becoming less clear if the UK Government will publish the OBR forecasts earlier than the originally announced date of November 23, I must stress that this risks creating an exceptionally challenging timeframe in which to deliver the Scottish budget.

“In these uncertain times, we will need to be ready to adapt flexibly and prudently to ensure that Scotland’s interests are best protected.”

Mr Swinney commented on the “ongoing turmoil and uncertainty regarding the UK Government’s plans for its autumn budget”, adding: “The Scottish Government is not privy to those discussions despite the clear and obvious impact that this has on our ability to plan our 2023-24 budget.”

He said it is “essential to ensure that there is adequate time to prepare the Scottish budget after the Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts are published”.

But he acknowledged the “need for effective parliamentary scrutiny of the Scottish budget”.

The Deputy First Minister said: “Taking the committee’s view into consideration, I am content to support a joint proposal that the Scottish budget be published on December 15 and I will write today to the Scottish Fiscal Commission to advise of this.”