Finance secretary: I will use borrowing powers 'to the max' 

Derek MacKay told MSPs he expects to borrow a maximum of £450m each year.

Borrowing: Derek Mackay was quizzed on his budget plans at Holyrood on Wednesday.
Borrowing: Derek Mackay was quizzed on his budget plans at Holyrood on Wednesday. PA

The Scottish Government will use new borrowing powers "to the max", the finance secretary has said.

Derek Mackay made the comments while being scrutinised by MSPs at the finance committee on Wednesday at Holyrood.

From this April, the Scottish Government can borrow up to a maximum of £450m each year.

The increased borrowing powers form part of the extended devolution deal negotiated between the Scottish and UK governments.

Mackay told MSPs: "We intend to use them. In terms of our new powers from the Scotland Act, we will use them to the max.

"Our proposal is to set out further spending plans around borrowing and we fully anticipate to use them to the cap of £450m and mindful of the aggregate borrowing cap of £3bn.

"We intend to use them over the course of the year."

MacKay's draft budget shows the Scottish Government intends to borrow to the maximum limit over the next three financial years.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1375814-at-a-glance-key-points-of-the-scottish-government-budget/ | default

As the SNP hold a minority of seats at the Scottish Parliament, they will need some opposition MSPs to vote for their budget so it passes.

Conservative MSP and finance committee member Murdo Fraser said the borrowing will "test" the competency of the devolved administration.

Fraser said: "Now that the Scottish Government has significant borrowing powers, it's right that it uses them to boost the economy and public services where possible.

"But at the same time, this will be a test of the SNP's financial competency. Too often in the past we have seen huge cost overruns, and millions wasted, on public-sector projects.

"Now that the SNP has a credit card to use it needs to spend this extra money more carefully than it has in the past."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scotland Act 2016 capital borrowing powers take effect from 2017-18 and the Scottish Government confirmed in the Draft Budget that it plans to make full use of these powers, which amounts to £450m in 2017-18.

"Final decisions about actual borrowing requirements will be taken over the course of the year based on an assessment of programme requirements."

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