BUDGET proposals will lead to “stability” for Scotland, John Swinney has said, ahead of Holyrood’s final vote on the 2023-24 financial plans.

Under proposals initially set out by the Deputy First Minister in December, taxes will increase for the highest earners in Scotland, with Swinney saying those who can pay more will do so in order to protect vital services such as the NHS amid a cost of living crisis and soaring inflation.

MSPs will debate the budget proposals for a final time on Tuesday before voting on them.

The Scottish Government has said the 2023/24 budget will set out the “social contract” with Scots as free school meals and bus travel is expanded.

The budget also pledges £19 billion in additional cash for the health and social care service as it battles to improve waiting times in emergency departments and delayed discharges from hospital.

It allocates £4.6bn to the net-zero, energy and transport portfolio, including £476 million to protect Scotland’s natural environment.

As well as freezing business rates for the forthcoming year, the proposals would uprate all devolved Scottish benefits by the November inflation rate of 10.1% – at a cost of £420m.

The plans will however see the top rate threshold on income tax reduced from £150,000 to £125,000, as well as an increase of 1p to the higher and top rates to 42p and 47p respectively.

Swinney said: “The budget strengthens our social contract with every citizen of Scotland who will continue to enjoy many benefits not available through the UK.

“In one of the most challenging budgets since devolution, we are prioritising our limited resources to protect public services, invest in the transition to net-zero and take decisive steps to eradicate child poverty in Scotland.

“Supporting people most in need in these difficult times is the foundation of this budget. As a government we are doing all we can to support people and families.

“We have chosen a distinctive, more progressive path where people are asked to pay their fair share to create the fairer society in which we all want to live. Progressive choices on Scottish income tax mean that next year this Government will deliver record funding of more than £19bn for health and social care.

“While none of us should underestimate the scale of the ongoing financial challenges, I am confident that this budget package offers stability and certainty for Scotland.”