Kezia Dugdale: Choose to oppose SNP Government austerity

Derek Mackay's budget is facing problems. Picture: Andrew Cowan
Derek Mackay's budget is facing problems. Picture: Andrew Cowan
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CHOOSE protecting the most vulnerable. Choose investing in young people. Choose asking the richest one per cent to pay their fair share. Choose tackling the growing NHS crisis. Choose not to pass on Tory austerity. Choose stopping the £327 million cuts to our vital public services.

Choose using the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Choose a different way.

Kezia Dugdale

Kezia Dugdale

Okay, it may be a bit different from Renton’s famous monologue from the original Trainspotting, but it’s very appropriate this week – not only because I was lucky enough to go to the premiere of the biggest film to hit the Scottish silver screen in decades, but also because it’s become increasingly clear that the SNP’s budget for government is unlikely to be approved by the parliament in its current state.

While the latter might spoil finance secretary Derek Mackay’s plans, I promise no spoilers about T2 Trainspotting. In it, Edinburgh looks magnificent. It seems the success of the first film has allowed Danny Boyle a bigger budget second time round and most of the movie has been filmed in Auld Reekie.

It shows how much Edinburgh has developed over the past 20 years, summed up by a cameo appearance from the building I am writing from today, our powerful Scottish Parliament.

But nothing stood out for me more than when we discovered Spud was now living in the Greendykes flats in Craigmillar. A community that has been transformed in the last few decades, regenerated by investment from a Labour government and city council, money which has built new homes, improved and extended transport links and put a neighbourhood centre and library at its heart, the envy of many communities across Edinburgh.

It’s a community I have spent a considerable amount of time in during the past decade, as an MSP for the area and as a campaigner before that.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with the Scottish government’s budget?

Well, the biggest number in the current draft budget is £327 million. That’s the amount of cuts proposed for our local authorities from a government and a First Minister that has always claimed to be against austerity.

The severity of cuts to the budgets of Scotland council’s will have a damning effect on their ability to deliver the public services so many people and communities like Craigmillar depend on. It’s £37 million worth of cuts to Edinburgh’s budget alone.

There are projects in Craigmillar such as the Venchie project, more than just a local breakfast club that provides toast and a glass of orange juice in the morning.

They knock on the doors of struggling families, get the kids out of their beds, put them on the bus and get them to the school gates.

They are facing a loss of funding due to the cuts to Edinburgh’s budget. So who loses out? Those children who need our help most. And we will all pay the price,

The Neighbourhood Alliance is another project which seeks to protect and advance the community in Craigmillar. It’s facing the threat of going under completely due to funding cuts. With it will go sporting facilities for vulnerable families, blossoming social enterprises and the solid foundations of the development trust.

This is an organisation that has been at the heart of pulling that community together even before the original Trainspotting movie was released. Who loses out? Families and individuals, proud of their community who want better for the next generation.

That’s the argument I will take into the Scottish Parliament this week, for I will not vote for a SNP budget that includes cuts to vital public services for the communities I was elected to represent and for the people who need them the most.

I choose to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament in a different way – a way which stops these awful cuts.

I hope all MSPs elected to represent communities like Craigmillar and others across Scotland will choose the same.

Kezia Dugdale is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothian Region and Leader of the Scottish Labour Party