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Scottish minister Kate Forbes, 29, announces £34bn budget

SNP MSP set to be in charge of Scotland’s £34bn budget is a 29-year-old who worked for two years as a trainee accountant

  • Kate Forbes found out she’d deliver budget when Derek Mackay resigned at 8am
  • MSP, 29, worked as a Barclays trainee accountant until entering politics full time 
  • In 2016, aged 26, she was elected in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat
  • Used budget speech to slam Brexit uncertainty – cheered on by Nicola Sturgeon

A 29-year-old SNP starlet stepped in at the 11th hour to deliver Scotland’s £34billion budget today after Nicola Sturgeon’s Finance Secretary quit having been accused of using his position to ‘groom’ a 16-year-old boy. 

MSP Kate Forbes only found out that she would announce the Scottish Government’s spending pledges for the coming year at around 8am today – just after Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace. 

Cambridge graduate Miss Forbes worked as a trainee accountant at Barclays for two years before entering politics full time in 2016, when she was elected in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat aged just 26.   

And Mackay’s fall from grace this morning meant this afternoon the SNP’s public finance minister became the first woman to deliver the Scottish Budget since devolution.

Nicola Sturgeon patted the MSP on the back and cheered as she finished a speech where she blasted Brexit, held the top rate of income tax at 46 per cent – six per cent higher than the rest of the UK – and announced £1.8billion on projects to tackle climate change.

Nicola Forbes became the first woman to present the Scottish Budget since devolution – but only found at at 8am when her colleague Derek Mackay quit over his messages to a boy, 16

Nicola Sturgeon pats Miss Forbes on the back after her 11th hour speech at Holyrood today as her SNP colleagues cheered

Nicola Sturgeon accompanied her public finance minister into the chamber ahead of the biggest speech of her career

Miss Forbes, a comprehensive schoolgirl from Dingwall born in 1990 who went on to study at Cambridge, has already made history by becoming the first government minister who was born in the same decade that the parliament was created. 

KATE FORBES’ CV 

2002 – 2008 Dingwall Academy

2008-11 Cambridge University, History 

2012-13 Edinburgh University, Masters Emigration History

 2011-2012 Worked for Dave Thompson MSP

2013-December 2015 Worked for Barclays as an accountant

May 2016 – Elected as an MSP

And today she revealed that the highest rate of income tax in Scotland would be frozen again at 46 per cent – compared to 40 per cent in the rest of the UK – but critics say this is actually a tax rise in real terms.

The majority of Scotland’s £34billion  budget comes from a block grant from the Westminster government, raised from tax revenues across the four countries of the United Kingdom.

This is done under the Barnett Formula, which ensures that public spending remains broadly the same in each of the home nations. 

But Holyrood will raise £11billion from income taxes within Scotland under this budget. 

She also used the speech at Holyrood to say the budget is being impacted by Brexit and claimed the Scottish Government’s finances will be hit unless a ‘sensible deal’ is reached with the EU. 

‘We may be forced to reconsider spending plans across all portfolios in order to mitigate, as much as possible, the unnecessary harm that would be caused if no agreement is reached’, she warned. 

In her speech, which didn’t mention Mackay’s resignation, the minister announced:   

Miss Forbes has already made history by becoming the first minister to be born in the decade the Scottish Parliament was formed – the 1990s

  • £1.8billion capital investment in climate change projects including low carbon public transport schemes;
  • Spending on forestry is be increased to more than £64 million after expert advisers at the Committee on Climate Change highlighted the need to increase tree planting levels. 
  • £15billion for heath and care services including a 60 per cent increase in spending on support for alcohol and drug addicts;
  • £645million of this cash will go towards increasing free nursery care
  • £120million spending on improving standards in schools and an extra £37milllion for Scottish Police Authority;
  • £21million to fund the new Scottish Child Payment – a £10 a week grant aimed at helping poorer families, which is being brought in later this year. 
  • £85million promoting active travel – such as walking and cycling
  • £35 million on a loan fund that helps people make the switch from petrol and diesel to low-emission vehicles

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said the ‘budget falls well short of where we need it to be’.

Where is the Scottish government splashing the cash? 

Extra cash to tackle the climate emergency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been announced in the Scottish Government’s new budget.

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes unveiled the tax and spending plans for 2020-21 in place of Derek Mackay, who was forced to quit as finance secretary after it emerged he had sent hundreds of messages to a teenage boy. 

Ms Forbes, the first woman to announce a budget in the Scottish Parliament, promised Police Scotland would get the ‘money they require to maintain officer numbers at current levels’.

With Scotland having recorded its highest number of drugs deaths in 2018 at 1,187, she said there would be a rise of almost 60 per cent in funding to tackle the harm caused by drugs and alcohol.

The budget provided for record spending of £15 billion in health and care services, with £645 million of cash going towards expanding the provision of free nursery care for youngsters

With governments across the world taking action against climate change, many of the announcements were focused on that. 

The minister announced £1.8 billion of capital spending would go on specific projects aimed at cutting emissions.

To encourage more Scots to use public transport, she said funding for rail and bus services would rise by £286 million to £1.55 billion in 2020-21.

In addition, more than £85 million will be spent promoting active travel – such as walking and cycling – while a loan fund that helps people make the switch from petrol and diesel to low-emission vehicles is being upped to £35 million.

Spending on forestry is be increased to more than £64 million after expert advisers at the Committee on Climate Change highlighted the need to increase tree planting levels.

The Scottish Government also pledged £2 billion of ‘transformational infrastructure investment’ in measures aimed at tackling climate change in the next parliamentary term – with Ms Forbes saying ministers would ‘prioritise multi-year investment in low carbon measures at the scale required to help tackle the climate change emergency’.

She confirmed there would no increase in the rates of income tax Scots pay next year.

While the threshold at which workers are required to pay the higher and top rates of income tax has been frozen, the amount at which people start to pay the basic and intermediate rates will rise in line with inflation.

Overall, 56 per cent of Scottish taxpayers will pay less than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK, Ms Forbes said.

Ministers will provide £21 million to fund the new Scottish Child Payment – a £10 a week grant aimed at helping poorer families, which is being brought in later this year.

Overall, Ms Forbes said ministers would spend no less that £1.4 billion next year in helping low-income households.

He said: ‘The SNP has to go back to the drawing board and make improvements if it wants to win our support.

‘Not enough money is being handed to police, the tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK will widen again, and there’s no commitment on hospital parking charges.

‘The demands we made were not unreasonable, and we’ll be happy to speak to the Scottish Government about how to introduce these changes.’

Miss Forbes worked as a trainee accountant at Barclays for two years before entering politics full time.

In 2016, aged 26, she won the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch seat, increasing the SNP majority from 4,995 to 9,043.    

The fluent Gaelic speaker has been public finance and digital economy minister since 2018 but could now take Mackay’s job as Finance Secretary.   

Derek Mackay, 42, who was tipped to be the next First Minister of Scotland, contacted the boy out of the blue on Facebook and Instagram last summer, calling him ‘really cute’ before asking him to keep their exchanges secret.

But he resigned hours before presenting the SNP’s Budget at Holyrood in Edinburgh today after the boy’s mother published the 270 messages exchanged with her traumatised son and said she would go to the police.   

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament today his conduct ‘falls seriously below the standard required of a minister’ and revealed he had been suspended from both the party and the SNP parliamentary group at Holyrood ‘pending further investigation’. 

It is the second major blow to hit the SNP in the past year after former First Minister Alex Salmond resigned from the party 12 months ago to fight charges of sexually assaulting 10 women – and today’s controversy involving another senior figure in Nicola Sturgeon’s party could badly damage her demands for a second independence referendum after Brexit.

Salmond’s trial, which starts on March 9, threatens to reveal more damaging information about the party and plunge Scottish Nationalists into more chaos.

Sturgeon is facing intense pressure from within her Remain-supporting party to secure the right to hold a second vote on breaking up the UK, as the latest poll shows 51 per cent of Scots would support leaving the union – the first time a majority has been recorded in favour since 2015. 

But Boris Johnson is flatly refusing the demand raising the prospect of a potential legal battle between the SNP and the government. 

In a humbling statement today Mr Mackay took ‘full responsibility’ for his ‘foolish actions’ and apologised ‘unreservedly’ to the boy and his family.  And in a nod to the gravity of his resignation, which could hit the SNP’s independence cause, he added: ‘I am sorry to have let colleagues and supporters down’.   

Mr Mackay, a father-of-two sons, came out as gay in 2013 when he left his wife of 12 years, Jennifer – the couple are separated but are not believed to be divorced and he lives with his physiotherapist boyfriend Fraser Adam in Bishopton near Glasgow. 

While Mr Mackay’s sudden resignation – and subsequent suspension from the SNP – dominated proceedings at Holyrood, the Scottish Government pressed ahead with its budget. 


Scottish finance Secretary Derek Mackay, 42, pictured left on his final photo call as a minister yesterday, and right with his estranged wife Jennifer in 2011, allegedly contacted the boy, 16, out of the blue on Facebook and Instagram – and has now quit because of his ‘foolish actions’

These are text messages allegedly exchanged between Derek Mackay and a 16-year-old boy, who said he was distressed by the messages, forcing him to lie about his brother being injured to avoid meeting him

Mr Mackay quit as Finance Minister this morning – apologising to the boy and his family as well as the SNP and their supporters

A downbeat Nicola Sturgeon addressed Holyrood this afternoon (pictured) and announced Mackay, viewed as her heir apparent, was suspended from both the national and parliamentary party pending an investigation

Ms Forbes, the first woman to announce a budget in the Scottish Parliament, promised Police Scotland would get the ‘money they require to maintain officer numbers at current levels’.

DEREK MACKAY’S POLITICAL CAREER AND HIS FALL FROM GRACE

Childhood – Claims to have suffered abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father

1993 – Spent some time living with his mother in a homeless shelter in Renfrew with his brother when he was 13.

1996 – Joins the SNP at age 16

1999 – Elected councillor for Renfrewshire at age 21 after graduating from Renfrew High School and abandoning his studies at the University of Paisley

2007 – Elected leader of Renfrewshire council  

2011 – Elected as MSP and immediately appointed to the Cabinet

2014 –  Appointed Minister for Transport by Nicola Sturgeon 

2016 – Promoted to Finance Secretary 

February 6 2020 – Quits his job over claims he bombarded 16-year-old boy with messages

With Scotland having recorded its highest number of drugs deaths in 2018 at 1,187, she said there would be a rise of almost 60% in funding to tackle the harm caused by drugs and alcohol.

The budget provided for record spending of £15 billion in health and care services, with £645 million of cash going towards expanding the provision of free nursery care for youngsters

With governments across the world taking action against climate change, many of the announcements were focused on that.

Ms Forbes said: ‘We promised this would be a budget that steps up the delivery of our ambition to tackle climate change. Today we deliver on that.’

The minister announced £1.8 billion of capital spending would go on specific projects aimed at cutting emissions.

To encourage more Scots to use public transport, she said funding for rail and bus services would rise by £286 million to £1.55 billion in 2020-21.

In addition, more than £85 million will be spent promoting active travel – such as walking and cycling – while a loan fund that helps people make the switch from petrol and diesel to low-emission vehicles is being upped to £35 million.

Spending on forestry is be increased to more than £64 million after expert advisers at the Committee on Climate Change highlighted the need to increase tree planting levels.

The Scottish Government also pledged £2 billion of ‘transformational infrastructure investment’ in measures aimed at tackling climate change in the next parliamentary term – with Ms Forbes saying ministers would ‘prioritise multi-year investment in low carbon measures at the scale required to help tackle the climate change emergency’.

She confirmed there would no increase in the rates of income tax Scots pay next year.

While the threshold at which workers are required to pay the higher and top rates of income tax has been frozen, the amount at which people start to pay the basic and intermediate rates will rise in line with inflation.

Overall, 56% of Scottish taxpayers will pay less than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK, Ms Forbes said. 

Overall, Ms Forbes said ministers would spend no less that £1.4 billion next year in helping low-income households.

She told MSPs the budget ‘delivers for our public services, invests in the path to net-zero emissions, boosts our economy and through the new child payment delivers a game changer in the fight against poverty’.

 

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