First Minister announces plethora of new measures during final day of SNP’s Aberdeen conference

Humza Yousaf

HUMZA Yousaf has frozen council tax and will sell the Scottish Government’s first ever bond as he closed the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen.

About 13% of local government funding is raised through council tax, the party leader did not set out how he would make up for the budgetary shortfall for councils who would have raised taxes.

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The First Minister also pledged to spend £300million on tackling NHS waiting lists in the next three years, as well as raising arts and culture funding by £100m over the next five years.

He also committed to awarding £400,000 to the Our Union Street campaign, as well as supporting other projects in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Cash injection to ‘anchor new offshore wind supply chain’

Yousaf announced that over the next five years, £500million will be invested in offshore wind across Scotland.

He said Westminster has treated Aberdeen like a “cash cow” before pledging to look to the future.

“The oil and gas industry, and most crucially our workers here in the North-east, are vital to Scotland’s economy,” he said.

“They will be for years to come. But we need to look to the future.

“I can therefore announce today that over the next five years the Scottish Government will invest up to £500 million to anchor a new offshore wind supply chain right here in Scotland.

“Cutting emissions, creating sustainable jobs and sending a clear message to global investors – Scotland means business.”

Council tax to remain at current levels

One of the headlines from the FM’s keynote speech was freezing council tax, despite financial troubles that councils across Scotland are facing.

Local authorities have been able to set their own rates for the past two years. Aberdeen City raised the levy by 5% in March, raising more precious millions, but will be unable to do so again if they wished.

The union representing Scotland’s councils, Cosla, said it had not been warned about the new measure in advance.

A spokesperson said: “This has longer term implications for all councils right across the country, at a time when we know there are acute financial pressures, and where we are jointly looking at all local revenue raising options.”

First ever Scottish bond

In a bid to fund investment in things like schools, housing and roads, Scotland will borrow money from private investors for the first ever time.

Holyrood has had the power to do so since 2015, however has yet to use it.

The pledge will “help raise Scotland’s profile and engagement with international investors to attract investment,” according to the FM.

Bonds will be sold by 2026, subject to “due diligence and market testing”.

Yousaf added: “We will also demonstrate the credibility to international markets that we will need when we become an international country.”

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