THE Scottish Government will today ask MSPs to approve a “worst-case scenario” Budget, which will slash council funding and other areas of public spending.

Finance Secretary Shona Robison has said she has been forced to pass on cuts from Westminster in order to spend more money on benefits and the health service.

Ahead of the first parliamentary vote on the Budget, unveiled in December, Robison said: “I have been clear about the fiscal challenge that we face after the UK Government’s Autumn Statement delivered the worst-case scenario for Scotland’s finances and failed to invest in public services.”

In his Autumn Statement last year, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (below) provided a modest increase to the Scottish Government’s budget of £545 million. Much of this will go towards increased spending on health and social security.

The National: Jeremy Hunt

While the overall amount of money councils will receive will increase to £14 billion overall, the local authority group Cosla has said this results in real-terms cuts worth £117.6m in both day-to-day spending and investment.

And council leaders have said the Scottish Government’s claims it has provided a “fully funded” council tax freeze are untrue.

A briefing note prepared by Cosla said cuts to council revenue budgets reduced the £144m announced to cover the council tax freeze to £81.3m.

The document said: “As a result, local government is faced with the reality that the funding offered for a council tax freeze only equates to a 2.8% rise.”

Other budgets such as those targeted at tackling homelessness and building new houses will also be slashed by measures in the Scottish Budget.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf calls emergency Cabinet meeting amid Scottish budget concern

The Scottish Government has said these cuts have resulted in social security spending worth £6.3bn, and £13.2bn for frontline health boards.

'A Budget which puts our values into action'

Robison added: “I have presented a Budget rooted in fairness and the social contract we have built with the Scottish people.

“This is a Budget which puts our values into action, invests in the future and will improve the lives of people across Scotland.

“I am urging all members to support the Budget Bill in today’s stage one vote.”

Despite the Conservatives, Labour and LibDems all vowing to vote against it, support from SNP and Green MSPs will ensure the Scottish Government’s Budget Bill passes its first Holyrood hurdle, ahead of a final vote later this month.

The National:

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s debate in the Scottish Parliament, Tory finance spokesperson Liz Smith (above) said: “The Scottish Conservatives will obviously vote against Shona Robison’s disastrous tax-and-axe budget, which has been almost universally condemned.”

She spoke out against the “damaging provisions of this deeply flawed Budget”, saying they would do “huge damage to Scotland’s economy and public services”.

READ MORE: ‘Letting people down’: Trade union movement reacts to Scottish Budget

Labour finance spokesperson Michael Marra also vowed his party would oppose the “damaging Budget”.

He accused the SNP and their Green partners in the Scottish Government of using “dodgy accounting to hide swingeing cuts”.

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton confirmed his MSPs too will vote against the draft Budget – claiming it “impoverishes councils and deals a hammer blow to everyone waiting for healthcare”.

Long-term planning

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s 10-year economic strategy has come under scrutiny by Audit Scotland, who found it lacked “collective political leadership and clear targets”.

Auditors found a key leadership group, due to be chaired by First Minister Humza Yousaf and attended by ministers and Cosla, has not yet been set up.

They said this meant there was no “dedicated route” for the National Strategy for Economic Transformation’s delivery board to escalate major concerns.

It comes as the Scottish Government attempts to introduce a “wellbeing economy”, where economic growth is no longer the only measure of success.

Auditor general Stephen Boyle said: “Making the shift to a wellbeing economy whilst also increasing tax revenue is a substantial challenge. 

“Collective political leadership remains vital, and the Government needs to better understand the cost and affordability of its plans so it can prioritise spending decisions.”