14 November 2008
By David Scott in Edinburgh
The Scottish Government is reshaping its capital investment programme to boost the economy, Finance Secretary John Swinney has told an influential committee of MSPs.
At a meeting of the Parliament's finance committee this week in Ayr, he outlined a series of initiatives and did not rule out switching revenue spending to capital.
Questioned about the possibility of such a transfer, Swinney said: 'Without the contributions from increasing budgets from the UK government, revenue pressures on budgets are now a great deal more intense. If opportunities arise to convert revenue into capital, the [Scottish] Government will certainly take them.'
Swinney said action to bring forward £100m of expenditure on affordable housing was evidence that ministers recognised the economic benefit that could be gained from accelerating the capital investment programme.
The Scottish Government was also taking steps to speed up the distribution of European structural funds. 'We have already allocated about £180m from those funds as part of the 2007—2013 programme and we intend to bring forward a large share of the remaining £385m to ensure that we can support our capital plans,' he said.
Swinney said the Scottish Government had not been formally consulted about the Pre-Budget Report, but during the summer it had made its priorities known to the chancellor. 'We concentrated our arguments on the need to ensure that measures are in place to provide a fiscal stimulus to the economy,' Swinney said.