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The first of a series of nationwide meetings to listen to views on Scotland's budget gets underway this week.
Finance Secretary John Swinney will be joined by Alex Linkston, Chief Executive of West Lothian Council and Crawford Beveridge, chair of the Independent Budget Review, on Tuesday night (September 7) in Livingston to hear from businesses, community and voluntary groups, West Lothian Council and NHS workers to discuss the findings of the Budget Review and the choices to be made in setting the budget for next year.
Further meetings will take place in September and October in Aberdeen, Galashiels, Glasgow, Kirkintilloch and Kirkcudbright.
Mr Swinney said:
"The current financial situation underlines the urgent need for the Scottish Government to secure financial responsibility and have the same economic powers that other nations have - enabling us to boost economic growth and grow tax revenues to invest in quality public services.
"Scotland's budget is forecast to shrink by £3.7 billion in real terms over the next four years because of Westminster cuts - two thirds of which were set in train by the previous UK administration and the other third by the coalition which is cutting too fast and too deep.
"In dealing with these Westminster spending cuts, we have already said our budget priorities are economic recovery, protecting front line services, and developing a low carbon Scotland as part of our efforts to drive forward the country's massive renewable energy potential.
"The Independent Budget Review has already focussed minds on the challenges we currently have to deal with in a period of reduced UK public spending. I now want to hear first hand what people think of the challenges we face. I am grateful to colleagues in the West Lothian Community Planning Partnership for their help in providing the opportunity to do so in Livingston next week.
"We will not know the Scottish Government's budget until the UK Comprehensive Spending Review in October. When I publish the Scottish budget in November I am determined it will reflect the feedback we receive from West Lothian and other events around Scotland. That feedback will build on the discussions Ministers have already had with hundreds of members of the public as part of our Summer Cabinet programme and the continued extensive engagement underway with organisations and groups across the country."
To give your views on the findings of the Independent Budget Review and the Budget options that face Scotland, go to www.scotland.gov.uk/publicspending
The meetings are being arranged with Community Planning partners and will target a wide range of public, private and third sector representatives. The dates for the remaining meetings will be confirmed in due course.
The Scottish Government is already taking action to deliver efficiencies and release cash for frontline services.
- We made £839 million efficiency savings in 2008-09 (£300 million above target) - 3.1 per cent of the 2007-08 DEL baseline.
- We are on track to reduce the number of Scottish public bodies from 199 to around 120 by April 2011, through our Simplification Programme. The programme will deliver estimated savings of around £125 million over the period 2008-13 and recurring annual savings of around £39 million thereafter.
- The Scottish Government reduced its administration budget in 2010-11 by £14 million.
- A cap on total staff numbers in post in core Scottish Government has been introduced in 2010-11. The Scottish Government is taking action now to reduce staff numbers within core Scottish Government, non-ministerial departments and most agencies, through both natural wastage and the offer of early severance arrangements, in anticipation of further budget reductions in 2011-12.
- For the second year running, Scottish Ministers have again decided to freeze their pay in 2010-11 and have adopted a similar approach for the highest paid people across the public sector who come under their control.
- Scottish Government travel costs have reduced year on year and in 2009-10 by almost £1 million compared with the year before.