Finance Secretary Derek Mackay last night vowed he would transform public services ahead of a budget expected to see Scotland’s tax system diverge further from the UK’s.
Mr Mackay said health and education would be prioritised in today’s Scottish budget, which will also see him outline his plans for Scottish income tax.
Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Mackay have said they will not pass on UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s tax break for higher earners.
Earlier this year Mr Hammond raised the threshold at which 40% tax would kick in to £50,000. Under the Scottish Government , taxpayers north of the border pay 41% on earnings above £43,430.
Faced with a teacher and a GP recruitment crisis Mr Mackay said his spending plans would protect public services, mitigate against UK austerity and the impact of Brexit.
Mr Mackay said: “Our spending plans for the year ahead will include long-term strategic investments that allow us to protect our essential public services, boost our economy and deliver on our commitments to the people of Scotland.
“Despite the UK Government’s promises, this budget will be set against a backdrop of continuing UK austerity which has devastating impacts on the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“This is also a budget presented under the shadow of the UK government’s chaotic approach to Brexit which hangs over our economy, our public services and risks making us all poorer in the future.”
On the eve of the budget, the Greens warned that their demand for “meaningful progress” on local tax had yet to be met, adding that Mr Mackay was leaving things “dangerously late”.
In the past Ms Sturgeon’s minority administration has had to rely on Green support to get the budget through Holyrood.
Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said: “Whatever spending plans and income tax rates the SNP set out, they know that they need to commit to longer-term reform of local tax if they want the Greens to enter formal talks.”
Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser called on the Finance Secretary to rule out a second independence referendum and address the “widening gap between tax rates in Scotland and the rest of the UK”.
Labour is demanding a £5 per week increase in Child Benefit and an end to the two-child cap on tax credits; a freeze on ScotRail fares in the New Year, a women’s health fund and more cash for the Universal Credit roll out.
The Lib Dems have walked away from budget talks after the SNP refused to take independence off the table.