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Yousaf to hold emergency cabinet as concern grows over Scottish budget

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However it is understood a highly unusual second cabinet meeting will be held on Thursday evening, when the £60bn budget for 2024/25 will be the main item of business.

If ministers remain unable to thrash out spending plans for the coming year, it is possible the budget will be discussed again when the cabinet meets in Haddington on Monday.

It is understood that Mr Yousaf and Ms Robison are determined to hold their first budget on December 19, and for it to include their promised council tax freeze.

The manoeuvre follows Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivering his autumn statement last week, which Ms Robison described as a “worst case scenario” for Scotland.

Mr Hunt said it would give Holyrood an extra £545m in this financial year and next year.

But Ms Robison said it would give her almost nothing extra under the Barnett formula, as the UK Government had chosen to cut tax instead of boosting spending.

A minimal rise in NHS funding south of the border meant just £10.8m more for Scotland, which she called a “drop in the ocean”.

She said also warned of a looming 10% real-terms cut in capital spending despite contract for infrastructure projects  being agreed.

The Scottish Government was already facing a £1billion shortfall in its 2024/25 budget after agreeing to a series of public sector pay deals and spending more on welfare benefits.

The pay deals cost £1.75bn across the public sector in 2023/24, or around £800m above the amount budgeted for, and further pay demands are expected in 2024/25.

A source admitted it would be exceptionally difficult to “square the circle” in the budget, and it was possible spending would have to be spread over a longer period, or “phased”, to cope.

Although Mr Hunt could yet use his spring budget to boost spending ahead of the general election, the Scottish budget is likely to be set before then, in February.

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