Scottish government budget proposals mean more cash for Island health services – but less for industrial development across the Highlands and Islands.

And the entire plan depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. 

The draft budget announcement says health services in the islands will receive a £2.7m boost next year.  

The increase will see NHS Western Isles funding increase 3.7% year on year – well above inflation.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay did, however, highlight the risk Brexit plays to this investment, with the potential for the Scottish Government to be forced to review the budget should the UK face a ‘No Deal’ scenario.

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:  “People across the Western Isles will welcome the significant investment in our local NHS services, with a real-term increase in spending announced in the draft budget.

“The Finance Secretary has boosted spending in the islands by £2.7m, bringing total health spending here to £75.7m for 2019/20. 

”The Conservatives wanted the Government to slash taxes for higher earners, which would have left a £1 billion black hole in our budget; Labour, on the other hand, had members on their own benches declaring their own proposals as an economically illiterate ‘shambles.’ 

“The Tories Brexit chaos, however, presents a real and present risk to this investment.

“The Finance Secretary confirmed that the Scottish Government may be forced to review the budget later in 2019, if the Conservatives force us to crash out the European Union without a deal. It is imperative for our health and public services that this does not happen.”

Meanhwhile, the region’s development agency is in line to have its 2019/20 budget slashed by £10.6million under Scottish Government proposals, saysLabour MSP Rhoda Grant.

She said: “Two years ago Labour campaigned to save HIE from a merger with Scottish Enterprise and won.

“Now it looks like the Scottish Government is diminishing it by stealth, imposing yearly cuts to its budget,” said the Highlands and Islands MSP.

“HIE needs to maintain or increase its budget, especially in the light of the collapse of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd and the on-going work to bring stability to this year’s snow sports season and to help the Aviemore economy.

“In 2007/2008 HIE’s budget was £103million, now it’s £61.1million. You can’t tell me that this region needs less money to enhance economic development. The figures speak for themselves.” 

The Scottish Government’s Budget Bill will be before Parliament in the New Year.