Scottish Executive Budget 2004

Andy Kerr, Scotland's Finance Minister, this afternoon set out his "enterprise, opportunity and fairness" budget. Key pledges include [via BBC];

  • 650m of annual efficiency savings by 2007-08
  • 30% increase in spending in further and higher education by 2007-08
  • 8 ½% increase in health spending per year
  • Continued commitment to increase non-domestic rates by no more than rate of inflation
  • An average annual increase of 14% in the transport budget
All of which is fine. I can't help feeling that a lot of it will be wasted money while the executive stubbornly refuses to countenance the kind of market based reforms being implemented south of the border. The Labour Party in Scotland remains rooted in the pre-Blair labour tradition and seems to believe that throwing money at the health service in particular will yield miraculous results.

On transport, rail links to Edinburgh & Glasgow Airports will be good in the absence of a sensible scheme to build one huge airport at Perth or somewhere and build v. high speed links to major population centres. Funding for Edinburgh's proposed trams will be great. There appears to be little in the way of overall strategy guiding the investment. I'd be happier to see a comprehensive plan which addresses transport as a means of delivering substantial and sustained economic growth for all of Scotland while ensuring that all communities have adequate access to the transport infrastructure.

On Education, I wonder for how long the executive will be able to fund increases in University funding while England's universities will thrive with top-up tuition fees. I'd love to see some real debate on this, including how much more could be generated from bringing in more foreign students paying overseas rates which might subsidise home grown students. Perhaps the need to generate funding will encourage Universities further down the line of spin-off companies - it worked well for Stanford with Google - but I feel that there remain far too many impediments in the way of this becoming a major source of funding.

I can't even be bothered to talk about Health. That is a lost cause.

So, on the whole, it seems a bit like a caretaker budget. Not much which will set the heather on fire, but from this short-term political risk-averse executive that is hardly a surprise.

Posted by Paul in Scotland Politics at September 29, 2004 05:07 PM | 0 Comments