After Rishi Sunak's £4.6 billion Budget bonanza, SNP should give fair funding to Edinburgh and Lothian – Miles Briggs MSP
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the UK budget at the end of last month, with a focus on economic recovery from Covid-19.
Scotland has received the biggest block grant since devolution to protect jobs and public services, with an increase of £4.6 billion. There has also been £150 million announced for Scottish businesses through the British Business Bank, with fuel duty frozen for the 11th year in a row.
In Edinburgh, we have received £16 million to restore and reopen the listed Granton Gas Holder, as part of the UK governments’ levelling up fund.
We are now four weeks away from the Scottish Finance Secretary announcing spending plans for Scotland, on December 9, and now is the time for Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs to be securing a fair deal for the city.
Both NHS Lothian and Edinburgh Council receive lower funding per head of population than most other health boards and local authorities in Scotland.
Years of continuous under-funding by SNP ministers have left Edinburgh and the Lothians at a significant disadvantage in delivering services.
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre found the gap between the amount NHS Lothian should receive and its actual allocation added up to a total of £365.7m, over the last 10 years.
As well as a significant funding shortfall for NHS Lothian, the region also has the fastest growing population in Scotland. Midlothian is predicted to have the fastest growing population (13.8%), East Lothian the second fastest (7.2%), City of Edinburgh sixth fastest (6.6%), and West Lothian seventh fastest (5.9%). These local authorities all have much faster predicted population growth than the Scottish average (3.5%).
A rapidly growing population and chronic under-funding, year on year, has inevitably brought about a real drop in performance by NHS Lothian despite the best efforts of frontline health professionals.
The pandemic has obviously had an impact on services, but issues with the delivery of health care in Lothian were there before Covid and have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Over the last ten years, the number of patients waiting for an outpatient appointment in NHS Lothian has increased 92 per cent, from 38,880 at the end of June 2011 to 74,546 at the end of June 2021.
Edinburgh Council’s central grant has been consistently underfunded by SNP ministers, with residents being charged extortionate levels of council tax, to make up the difference.
Edinburgh, in particular, faces challenges to reduce homelessness across the city. We have higher number of families and children in temporary accommodation than any other local authority in Scotland.
To reduce homelessness across the Capital, we need much more affordable housing so families can have a permanent home to give their children the best possible start in life.
Despite this, SNP ministers have short-changed Edinburgh when it comes to budget allocation, with the capital receiving only 7.3 per cent of funds for affordable housing supply, despite having 9.7 per cent of Scotland’s population.
Instead of under-funding Edinburgh Council, we need SNP ministers to fully fund homeless prevention.
The Scottish Budget will present a real test for SNP and Green MSPs elected across the region. It is essential they start standing up for their constituents and delivering a fair deal for Edinburgh and the Lothians in the upcoming Scottish budget.
Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian