The Scottish Executive has "realigned" pound;146million from within its pound;20billion spending block to benefit education which will also receive another pound;99m, almost half of the extra money allocated to Scotland in the Chancellor's March Budget.
In a spending statement to Parliament last week which some MSPs suspected was a financial conjuring trick, Angus MacKay, the Finance Minister, said the pound;99m was new money which would be spent on new initiatives, the bulk of it (pound;64m) in 2003-04.
The Chancellor's Budget statement announced a pound;1bn package to be spent over three years for schools' day-to-day running costs and capital projects. This money would go direct to schools, Gordon Brown pledged. But Mr MacKay gave no indication whether the "new initiatives" would involve similar moves, which will see primaries in England receive between pound;13,000 and pound;63,000 a year until 2004, while secondaries are to get amounts ranging from pound;68,000 to pound;115,000.
Mr MacKay, whose budget mantra was "rigour that brings rewards", said that the realigned sum of pound;146m - effectively money taken from other services - was partly realised by transferring pound;40m earmarked for the introduction of broadband technology in schools from the education budget to the Executive's capital modernisation fund.
This freed up the pound;40m which will now help to pay for the later costs of the teachers' pay settlement in 2003-04. And, Mr MacKay added, "schools will still get their broadband connections".
The Minister dismissed reports that the education budget would be raided to pay for the burgeoning construction costs of the new Parliament.
Colleges and universities will also benefit from Mr MacKay's rebalancing of his budget, with an extra pound;9m to support further and higher education students, which enabled the Executive to announce its childcare package for students this week (see opposite page).