Scottish Government loses budget vote

THE Scottish Government's £33 billion budget was tonight rejected by the Scottish Parliament after a knife-edge vote.

MSPs' vote on the spending plans for 2009/2010 was tied at 64/64, and Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson cast his deciding vote against the budget.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie had announced during a Holyrood debate he would oppose the plans along with Labour and the Lib Dems, but the Tories backed the government.

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After the vote finance secretary John Swinney said the Government planned to bring forward a revised Budget Bill "at the earliest possible opportunity – and certainly within a matter of days".

He told MSPs: "In light of the vote that has just taken place, and the serious position in which this leaves Scotland, the Scottish Government will not delay in seeking to resolve the budget issues for next year.

During the debate Labour's Jackie Baillie said the SNP administration would still have time to bring forward another set of proposals.

A budget could come into force on April 1 provided that a Bill was passed by February 14, she said.

However failure to pass a budget by then would mean that spending can only continue at the level set out in the 2008/9.

Under Holyrood rules, if a Budget Bill is defeated, another Bill can be introduced.

If there is no Budget Act in place by the start of the financial year, emergency public finance arrangements come into play.

That means that until a Budget Act is in force, the Scottish Government has to rely on last year's budget – with monthly spending limited to one twelfth of the total budget for the previous year.

Scottish Budget debate - as it happened