Scotland’s health and social care spending will fall next year, despite Shona Robison promising an increase, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said.

David Phillips, an associate director at the thinktank, said budget documents released by the Scottish Government gave a “misleading impression” of the SNP minister’s spending plans.

The IFS analysis shows that funding for the Scottish Government’s NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care portfolio will fall by 0.7% in real terms in 2024–25, compared to this financial year.

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However, the official Budget documentation shows a 1.3% real-terms year-on-year increase.

The IFS say this is because the figures used by the Scottish Government do not include in-year top-ups to health and social care funding.

Instead, they compare 2024-25’s numbers to what was originally planned for 2023-24, rather than what the actual spend was.

The IFS say it is a similar situation with local government spending. Budget documentation shows funding for councils increasing by 6.2% in real terms in 2024–25 compared with the amount originally budgeted this year.

But after accounting for this year’s in-year top-ups, the actual planned increase in councils’ funding, including from council tax, is closer to 1.8% in real terms.

The IFS said spending on social justice will be down by 10.2% in real terms in 2024-25, with the budget for the wellbeing economy, fair work and energy portfolio falling by 5% in real terms.

Taken together it said the increase in income tax for those earning £75,000 a year or more – who will pay the new “advanced rate” of 45p – and the freeze in council tax would “slightly reduce the funding available for devolved public services and social security spending in Scotland”.

This is because the new tax band will raise an estimated £82 million, while the Government will give local authorities £144 million for the council tax freeze.

But it said that taken together, the two changes were progressive, with the IFS pointing out lower income households would not be impacted by income tax rises, but will benefit from the freeze in council tax, while higher earners will “in many cases see a much bigger increase in income tax bills than they will save in council tax, reducing their net income by an average of 0.7%”.

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Looking ahead, the IFS warned while current forecasts suggest a “substantial real terms increase” in resource funding for the Scottish Government in 2025-26, from 2026-27 onwards, Holyrood ministers could see “much smaller increases in resource funding – that could easily be more than entirely absorbed by the NHS and other priority areas, necessitating cutbacks to many other services”.

The IFS also warns that unless the UK government increases funding to the Scottish Government “this will be another tough period for public spending in Scotland.”

They say that on current plans, annual growth in public service spending in Scotland between 2024–25 and 2028–29 will be just 1% per year.

David Phillips, an associate director at IFS, said: ‘By omitting in-year top-ups to spending plans this year, the official Scottish Budget documentation gives a misleading impression of how the amounts of funding available for the health service, councils, and many other services are set to change next year.

‘The Scottish Government has argued that comparing its latest spending plans for one year with its initial budgets for the next year, as we think is better, is problematic.

“It says this ignores the fact that plans in the next year can change too. And yes, they often do. But plans are plans, and at present the latest stated plan is to spend less on health next year than was spent this year.

“Surely it helps stakeholders of all types to know what actual year-on-year changes in funding different services can expect, given the latest spending plans – both to understand the choices and financial pressures those spending plans imply, and to argue for the changes they think need to be made."

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Scottish Conservative finance spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The IFS analysis makes it clear that the impact of the SNP’s savage tax-and-axe budget will be even worse than it first appeared.

“They point out that omitting in-year top-ups misleads the public and will lead to a real-terms cut in health spending.

“Councils will also lose out by receiving only around a third of the increase Shona Robison was trying to suggest.”

Labour finance spokesman Michael Marra said: “The SNP is planning to axe public services and is trying to dupe the public about it – but no-one is fooled.

“These cuts will wreak havoc at a time when local government is already at breaking point and almost one in six Scots are stuck on NHS waiting lists.

“No amount of dodgy sums and spin can mask the damage this SNP government is inflicting on lifeline services.

“The SNP must come clean with Scots about its spending plans for next year and set out how it will protect essential services.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.