The draft Scottish Government budget was presented to the Scottish Parliament on 19 December 2023. At the time of writing it is in the second stage of scrutiny before the Budget Bill comes back to full Parliament for a final vote before the end of February. This is usually a phase of negotiation and adjustment.

The biggest changes proposed for 2024-25 include large cuts to some capital spending headings, including on housing, and the reintroduction of a Council tax freeze.

Most analyses suggest that whilst Scottish Government have found money for that and for public service staff pay settlements made in 2023, pressure on spending on public services is not easing.

In turn this suggests that in many if not all Councils, funding on urban greenspace will continue to be cut or under pressure.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have responded critically, arguing that place-based and 'early intervention' approaches to public services will suffer. They have also as in previous years argued that there is a funding gap between Scottish Government commitments and the funds both recurrent (‘revenue’) and capital promised to Councils. Their detailed commentaries and budget briefings can be found here .   

The detailed headings and commentary provided by the Scottish Government along with its stage 1 budget can be found in the Excel spreadsheet here.

Apart from reductions in Council non-statutory spending that had already been predicted, here are some other highlights: 

  • Play and the play supporting budget sees a headline 15% increase across the Positive Futures budget line, although most of that derives from a pre-planned 50% uplift in play parks capital funding.

  • Biodiversity, NatureScot, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency also seem to have been relatively protected. Cash increases are proposed to these budgets, possibly a little above inflation.

  • Place-based and Vacant and Derelict Land Capital Grants to local authorities are down by at least 23%, alongside a rationalisation into a Regeneration Programmes heading. COSLA have reacted very negatively to these reductions in a press statement.

  • Woodland capital grants are cut by 40%. However proposals for the strategic public agency Scottish Forestry and Land see a significant increase in revenue funding and a smaller increase in their capital funding, in total just over 17%.

For further analysis of the budget, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has a very detailed paper.

For recent Scottish Parliamentary scrutiny and discussions, see the official report of the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s evidence session with the Deputy First Minister on 16 January.