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Scots Budget passed with £50m boost for housing and colleges

By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 7 February 2013

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney yesterday announced almost £50m of additional spending for housing and colleges before his £28bn Budget Bill was passed by Holyrood.

He has raised an extra £38m for building and renovation of affordable housing thanks to underspending in loan facilities at Scottish Water and in renewables project funds. A further £10m has also been found this year for further education, which has borne the brunt of coalition cuts while Scottish ministers protected university resources.

The extra colleges money, which Swinney stressed would be tied to continued co-operation in a programme of mergers and modernisation, reduces college cuts in the coming year from £34.6m to £24.6m. He also unexpectedly promised an extra £51m for 2014/15 to hold the colleges’ budget steady in cash terms at £522m.

Other smaller increases announced yesterday include £2m to repopulate empty town centre properties, an additional £10m for road and bridge repairs and an extra £1m for a programme to support entrepreneurial small businesses.

Swinney has faced sustained criticism over the scale of cuts in housing and further education, and the concessions failed to satisfy his critics. But he insisted that his £28bn Budget would support jobs and businesses in spite of a real-terms cut of 8% over three years imposed by Westminster in Scottish spending totals.

The National Union of Students, which has mounted a mass e-mail campaign on further education spending, said the scale of cuts remained unacceptable. ‘We were hoping for much more from this Budget,’ said NUS president Robin Parker.

Labour’s Hugh Henry said that FE still faced £50m of ‘savage’ cuts in the next two years over 2012/13 spending levels. For the Conservatives, Gavin Brown said the additional money for housing still left substantial cuts ‘at a time when the construction sector is in desperate need of a boost’.

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