JOHN Swinney has announced a U-turn on plans to slash cultural funding as he unveiled a last-minute cash boost of £100 million.

Finalising the Scottish Government’s budget for the coming year, the acting Finance Secretary reiterated comments he had made previously that this was the “hardest budget process” he had ever led.

MSPs passed the budget following a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon. 

Cuts of around £6.6m to Scotland’s arts and culture sector funded by the state were reversed – but Swinney warned this was the “absolute limit” of funding he could offer Creative Scotland.

He said arts and culture were important to the “wellbeing of our society” adding: “That means there is a substantial increase in the Scottish Government funding for culture and major events in the next financial year at a time when our country requires the inspiration that the culture and arts sector can provide for all of us.”

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The Scottish Government received a £146m windfall after a £125m boost in Barnett consequentials and £21m from a UK forecasting error.

Councils had hit out at the Scottish Government after the publication of the draft budget, claiming the real terms increase of £570m touted at the beginning of the process could actually be as low as £71m when ring-fenced government initiatives were accounted for.

The new funding represented a 3% real terms increase in council funding based on last year’s budget document, the Deputy First Minister said.

“I’m committing to provide local government with an additional £100m to support local authorities and their expenditure,” he said.

“This funding is designed to assist councils in making a meaningful 2023-24 pay offer for non-teaching staff, recognising the critical role that those staff play in delivering frontline services.”

Swinney added he hoped the funding would result in a “swift agreement” being reached with staff, which would avoid the scenes of last summer, when refuse workers walked out leaving rubbish piling up in the streets during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Taken with the £156m announced last week as part of the pay offer from government to teachers – an offer that was summarily rejected by the biggest teaching union – Swinney said the uplift resulted in local authorities being given £793m more in real terms compared to last year.

“As a result of the decisions in this budget, the total funding available to councils to support local services will be nearly £13.5 billion, plus the revenues from any local decisions on council tax,” he told MSPs.

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“This is equivalent to a 3% real terms increase compared to the 2022-23 budget bill.”

The budget will raise taxes on high and middle earners, with all Scots earning more than £43,662 per year facing a rise in income tax to provide extra funding for the NHS.

Scottish Tory finance spokesperson Liz Smith said it was important to focus on the highest earners as well as those most in need, if the economy is to grow.

She said: “We have to make sure we are also helping those that are at the very productive end of Scotland and who want to come and live and work and invest in Scotland, because that is as important as looking after our vulnerable communities.”

Labour’s Daniel Johnson claimed the next SNP leader was likely to ditch the budget, saying: “This is not a budget that will last. I don’t see any of the leadership candidates, once elected, leaving the budget well alone.”

The increased funding for Creative Scotland is the “first victory” of Ash Regan’s campaign, he quipped.

Scottish LibDems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the budget is “just not good enough”.

He called for the National Care Service Bill to be abandoned, saying: “I was pleased to see at least one of the SNP leadership contenders has recognised that the bill must be halted.

“I suspect the others in the SNP quietly agree with them.”

Roz Foyer, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, welcomed the news funding would be restored to Creative Scotland.

She said: “This is an excellent victory for our members in the creative arts and all credit goes to them, the Campaign for the Arts and workers across the sector.

“We appreciate this move from the Cabinet Secretary in listening to our calls - and that of the wider movement - acting decisively and purposefully in restoring funding to Creative Scotland."