FINANCE Secretary Kate Forbes has called on opposition MSPs to back her budget as she claimed her Government is “continuing to treat councils fairly”.

Ms Forbes has faced criticism from local authorities with Cosla warning the draft settlement will result in cuts to core services with a funding reduction in real-terms being offered.

MSPs will debate the budget, the first formal spending plan drawn up between the SNP and Scottish Greens, at stage one in Holyrood today.

Ms Forbes said: “Recognising the severe impacts of the pandemic, £18 billion will support health boards and accelerate the recovery of vital health and social care services. Significant funding is also being provided to support the next steps in the single greatest public health reform since the establishment of the NHS – the creation of a new National Care Service.

“This budget also funds our key priority of tackling child poverty and inequality, by targeting over £4 billion in social security payments, including £197 million to double the game-changing Scottish Child Payment from April 2022.

“Green recovery and economic transformation are central to our spending plans and an investment of at least £2 billion in infrastructure initiatives will support green jobs and accelerate efforts to become a net-zero economy, in addition to £150 million to create an active travel nation.”

She added: “Despite increased financial pressures, we are also continuing to treat councils fairly and we are providing a real terms increase of over 5% to local authority budgets for the coming year – despite cuts to Scotland’s overall budget by the UK Government.

“It cannot go unsaid that despite the ambition of this budget, it comes amidst an extremely challenging fiscal backdrop and difficult decisions have had to be made.

"With uncertainty surrounding the cost of living, sky high energy prices, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the fallout from Brexit, I urge MSPs across the chamber to support this Budget and help us secure the way forward to becoming a fairer, greener, more prosperous country.”

The Scottish LibDems have confirmed they will not back the budget after a failure to agree on key aspects with Ms Forbes.

Last year, the LibDems supported the SNP’s budget after seeing their asks on education and mental health accepted.

The party’s leader, Alex Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I had hoped we might be able to make similar progress this year.

“However faced with a budget that delivers £371 million in cuts to local government and an unwillingness on the part of the SNP-Green Government to deliver key Scottish Liberal Democrat demands on long Covid and social care, we have no choice but to vote against the budget at stage one.

“What’s more, last year the First Minister and the Finance Secretary sensibly set aside preparations for an independence referendum. This time they intend to have civil servants beavering away on preparations for another referendum. That’s a waste of time and energy that should be spent on health, social care and the climate emergency.

“This is a budget that will break the bank for cash strapped local authorities while ministerial attention drifts to breaking up the UK. We’re a long way from being able to offer the government our votes to see it through.”