Scotland’s finance secretary has urged the Chancellor not to cut taxes in this week’s budget and put more funding into creaking public services instead.

Despite spending £210million trying to freeze the council tax to help with the cost of living, the SNP’s Shona Robison said Jeremy Hunt should “prioritise investment”.

It followed Mr Hunt saying yesterday that he wanted to use Wednesday’s spring statement to “move towards a lower tax economy”.

The Chancellor cut the main rate of National Insurance from 12 to 10% from January in his autumn statement, and Rishi Sunak last week signalled it could happen again.

Noting a reduction in national insurance would apply UK-wide, unlike income tax which is largely devolved, the PM said such a move would be a  “Union tax cut”.

According to the Sunday Times, Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt were due to meet last night to discuss whether to cut NI or income tax by up to 2p in the pound.

Although an income tax cut would not be mirrored in Scotland, it would benefit pensioners south of the border, a key voter demographic for the Tories going into the general election.

As curtain raiser for the budget, Mr Hunt will today announce £360m of funding for industry as a contribution to making the UK “a world leader in manufacturing”.

The package will go into research and development and manufacturing projects across the life sciences, automotive and aerospace sectors, and includes £92m joint Government and industry investment to expand life-saving medicine and diagnostics products.

There is also a £200m joint investment in zero-carbon aircraft technology to develop a more sustainable aviation sector, and almost £73m in automotive technology.

In a series of interviews on Sunday, the Chancellor stressed responsibility and prudence rather than giveaways of the kind demanded by Tory MPs anxious about the polls.

Appearing on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, he ruled out borrowing to pay for cuts and any reductions had to be “sustainable” and “affordable”. 

He said: “I do want, where it is possible to do so responsibly, to move towards a lower tax economy, and I hope to show a path in that direction.

“This will be a prudent and responsible Budget for long-term growth, tackling inflation, more investment, more jobs and that path to lower taxation as and when we can afford that.”

Mr Hunt is reportedly considering abolishing “non-dom” tax status to raise money, despite having strenuously resisted the idea in the past. 

Non-domiciled status allows foreign nationals who live in the UK, but are officially resident overseas, to avoid paying UK tax on their overseas income or capital gains.

The Prime Minister’s wife Akshata Murty previously enjoyed non-dom status.

Labour has said it would scrap the tax break to save around £2bn a year.

Labour shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said it would be an “abject humiliation” for the Tories if they copied Labour’s plan after years of “rubbishing this idea”.

Appearing later on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Ms Robison said that, echoing the International Monetary Fund and the Office for Budget Responsibility, her view was that the spring Budget “should prioritise investment in public services, not tax cuts”.

She said: “All of these organisations have said the same: that tax cuts are unaffordable and, indeed, it is the investment in public services that are needed.

“I agree with that and I really hope that Wednesday will see a change in the direction that Jeremy Hunt takes, particularly on investment on capital so we that we can invest in our infrastructure, things like affordable housing, for example, so those are the key priorities that I and many others are calling on Jeremy Hunt to prioritise.”

She called for a real-terms cut of £1.6bn, or 10%, in Holyrood’s capital budget over the next five years to be reversed, saying she would prioritise money for affordable housing if it was. 

The deputy FM defended the Scottish budget for 2024/25, which was passed by SNP and Green MSPs last week, but acknowledged it had involved “difficult choices”.

Ms Robison also urged Mr Hunt not to cut taxes before his autumn statement.

She then went on to spend £210m freezing council tax, a move which benefits those with the largest homes most, while cutting £200m from affordable housing building. 

Despite Humza Yousaf promising a Scotland-wide freeze, Labour-run Inverclyde and Tory-Lib Dem Argyll & Bute have raised their council tax by 8.2% and 10% respectively.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Liz Smith said: “It’s ridiculous of Shona Robison to be giving the UK Chancellor advice on growth, when the SNP’s dire record led to her savage tax-and-axe budget that means Scots will be paying more to receive fewer and worse services. 

“Her tone-deaf defence of her disastrous budget – roundly condemned by everyone except her own party – shows no remorse for the SNP’s appalling mismanagement.”