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Scottish cabinet discusses budget ‘options’ at second meeting of the week

Humza Yousaf charied his second cabinet meeting of the week to discuss the upcoming Scottish budget. (Russell Cheyne/PA)
Humza Yousaf charied his second cabinet meeting of the week to discuss the upcoming Scottish budget. (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Humza Yousaf and his cabinet met to discuss “options” for the upcoming Scottish budget as tax and spending plans for the next financial year are not yet finalised.

With the Scottish Government said to be facing a £1 billion funding gap and SNP ministers having branded the UK Chancellor’s recent autumn statement as the “worst case scenario”, the First Minister took the unusual step of convening the second cabinet meeting of the week.

The Scottish cabinet usually meets on Tuesday mornings, with this followed by another meeting on Thursday evening.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said afterwards the meeting took place as “additional time to look at options was required”.

Deputy First Minister and Scottish Finance Secretary will set out the budget for 2024-25 on December 19 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, who is also the Scottish Finance Secretary, is due to unveil the tax and spending plans for next year to MSPs on December 19.

While the budget will include a freeze in council tax for all Scots, no details have yet been revealed of how much money will be given to councils to compensate them for the freeze.

For its part, the local government body Cosla has warned of a risk of possible bankruptcy for authorities if more money is not allocated to them.

With the SNP relying on support from Green MSPs, who they have a powersharing deal with at Holyrood, Green co-leaders and Scottish Government ministers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were present at Thursday evening’s cabinet meeting.

Talks on the budget will continue in the coming days as plans are finalised.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said afterwards: “Cabinet met this evening and discussed the 2024-25 Scottish Budget in the wake of the UK Government’s autumn statement.”

While the autumn statemnt will see the Scottish Government receive £545 million over two years, Holyrood ministers have complained that they will receive less than £11 million this year in extra cash for the NHS.

The spokesperson said: “Additional time to look at options was required after ministers described this budget as the most challenging to be delivered since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, following a ‘worst case scenario’ UK Government autumn statement, reflecting the UK’s post-Brexit economic circumstances.

“The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said the autumn statement will be ‘more painful’ for public services than the previous period of spending cuts in the UK, and this is the difficult context in which ministers are making budget decisions, as is also the case for the devolved Welsh Government.

“Discussions will continue as the detail of the budget is finalised.”