FINANCE Secretary Kate Forbes is coming under pressure to provide a better deal for councils, students and the NHS in her upcoming Budget.

Colleges and universities have joined forces to demand help for students, while the umbrella body responsible for Scotland's councils, COSLA, has also asked for support.

COSLA said investing in local authorities would go a long way in helping the NHS, which is predicted to have a tough winter due to coronavirus cases rising alongside the usual seasonal emergencies.

Local government chiefs say preventative investment in their services was vital to keeping people away from hospitals.

Ms Forbes is due to set out her draft Budget for 2022-23 on December 9, with COSLA chiefs calling for £12.6bn - an increase of £1.6bn on last year, for councils to "thrive".

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Cosla president Alison Evison said: “By investing adequately in the essential services that local government provides, the Scottish Government would be enabling us to ease the pressure on the NHS and work towards achieving our joint aim of enabling everyone to ‘live well locally’.

“Significant additional funding has gone into the NHS over recent years, yet health inequalities still exist and our communities are still seeing too many drug deaths.

“The NHS is having to deal with problems once they are too far gone and at the most expensive part of the process. Investing in local government would enable investment in more cost-effective prevention work.”

Meanwhile college and university principals have come together to call for a better deal for students in the Budget, arguing that funding for educational institutions must be put on a secure footing.

Audrey Cumberford, Chair of College Principals and Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland said the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by students.

Mr McCormac said: “During the pandemic the Scottish Government recognised the serious impact of the pandemic on young people’s education and provided additional financial support. As the impact of COVID-19 continues, and to secure opportunities for young people as we emerge from it, it’s essential that the good work already achieved isn’t lost and funding of colleges and universities is put on a secure footing. "

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A Scottish Government spokesman said the Budget would be "challenging" in part due to "no additional Covid-19 funding from the UK Government", but added:"Scottish ministers will ensure all investment is focused on helping people across the country."

Minister for Higher and Further Education Jamie Hepburn said: “Our colleges, universities and their staff are vital to our Covid recovery and we recognise the importance of sustainable funding, not only to the stability of our institutions but also the learning experience and well-being of our students.

“The Scottish Government’s draft budget will be published in the coming weeks and will set out full spending plans for the year ahead.”