Budget: Jean calls for a better deal for Highland charities

Jean Urquhart has welcomed cross-party support for the principles of the Scottish Budget, after it passed the first stage of the parliamentary process this evening. MSPs from the SNP, Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats, as well as Jean and her fellow Highlands and Islands independent MSP John Finnie, voted to pass the Budget (Scotland) (No.3) Bill at Stage 1.

Jean highlighted the Budget’s focus on preventative sending to reduce health and social problems in the future, but warned the voluntary organisations that are key to that effort need the security of longer funding agreements.

Jean said:

“The Scottish Government is to be congratulated for producing a positive and ambitious budget despite the tough economic environment and Westminster’s disastrous austerity agenda. Once again, vital components of Scotland’s social wage have been protected – free prescriptions, free personal care and public transport for the elderly, and free university tuition.

“Unusually, four out of the five parties at Holyrood voted for the principles of the Budget. That’s a testament to John Swinney’s ability and his determination to get the best deal he can for Scots of all walks of life. Only the Tories, insisting upon yet more cuts, opposed it.

“As a Finance Committee member I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government has strengthened its commitment to prevention – spending to stop social and health problems before they start rather than relying on expensive cures once it’s too late. This philosophy is increasingly being included in government strategy, and the Budget includes £30m over two years to support the voluntary sector’s vital work in this area.

“However, far too many charities are still being given funding settlements for just one year at a time. This makes it hard for charities to plan, and to invest in future services. For example, the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport Scheme faces an uncertain future, despite being an essential and well-used service. We need to move to an expectation that funding for community projects will be for several years at a time, creating the security these brilliant voluntary-sector services need and deserve.”

You can read the full draft Budget document on the Scottish Government website.