THE Budget laid out to Holyrood on Thursday was “bleak” and the delivery of public services will likely require reform, Scotland’s Deputy First Minster has said.

John Swinney, who is also the country’s acting Finance Secretary, laid out the Government’s tax and spending plans this week, with a focus on the NHS and social security.

He announced that people earning more than £43,662 would pay more in tax as the higher rate was lifted from 41p to 42p, while the top-rate threshold was brought down to £125,140 as the rate rose from 46p to 47p.

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Council leaders condemned the budget, saying it could lead to the end of some public services. Local authority body Cosla said the £550 million increase in council funding actually amounted to just £71 million in real terms.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Swinney said: “I set out, frankly, a pretty bleak picture to Parliament on Thursday.

“It was an explanation of the very real difficulties we find ourselves in as a consequence of some of the global issues which we often feel are a long way away from us.

“But on this occasion the war in Ukraine has brought energy and price inflation right to the heart of our economy and public services – compounded by some of the significant strategic mistakes that have been made in the United Kingdom around Brexit and the mini-budget in early September.”

He added: “I think anyone observing my budget statement on Thursday would recognise that I gave a pretty candid, open explanation of the scale of difficulty that we face.”

Speaking to the same programme, Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said there was “disappointment across the board” at the settlement for local government, adding that councils would be “desperately trying to protect” frontline services.

Swinney also said that, as a result of financial pressure, the country should be open to reforming public services in a bid to save money.

“The financial pressures on all of us because of inflation are so great we have to change the way we deliver public services,” he said.

Referring to reports that the budget was a left-wing one, Swinney said it was “right for the times”.

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“We face acute challenges, it needed bold action, and that’s what I did on Thursday,” he added.

Hagmann, a councillor in Dumfries and Galloway, told the programme that after each local authority receives its allocation on Monday council leaders will have to work out how to balance their budgets, adding that without additional funding "there are going to be some really challenging and difficult decisions facing local authorities".

She explained: "In our budget lobbying, we tried to lay out exactly what the ask was, what we're trying to protect.

"The example that we gave was, if we got the one billion pounds that would save, potentially as you say job cuts, what it translates to is equivalent of the 17,500 teachers.

The National: Hagmann said teachers jobs may be at risk if further funding isn't providedHagmann said teachers jobs may be at risk if further funding isn't provided (Image: Newsquest)

"We're looking at essential services, things like youth work, things like economic development, working with our third sectors as well for domestic abuse and family support services.

"All these are considered essential services and we're at the frontline in local government, and it's these types of services that we will be desperately trying to protect because, frankly, they are the first line."

Scottish Tory MSP Craig Hoy later on the programme would not say if the party would raise or freeze taxes, but added: "I think it's a worrying trend that the SNP are starting to tax middle income earners and creating a disparity between Scotland and the rest of the UK because that would only undermine our competitiveness.

"And if they have been running Scotland's public services properly over the last decade, if they had been properly running the tax system here in Scotland, they may not be forced to put taxes up at this point in time."

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Asked if the Scottish Tories regretted urging the Scottish Government to follow the disastrous tax plans of the UK Government under Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng in their infamous mini-budget, Hoy rowed back on the claims, backed by party leader Douglas Ross.

He said: "What we said was we wanted to make sure that if there was a significant change in the tax regime in the rest of the UK, that Scotland tried to wherever possible have parity. It wasn't so much support for the individual taxes."

Scottish Labour finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said Swinney was “out of touch with Scotland”.

“Even SNP councillors are calling out their own party for the failure to support councils after 15 years of savage cuts,” he added.

“While claiming to reject austerity, John Swinney is foisting it upon local government – leaving council services decimated across the country.”