Edinburgh SNP in denial over who’s responsible for council cuts – John McLellan

The Scottish Government blames Brexit uncertainty for most of its problems, but doesn’t mention ‘independence uncertainty’, writes John McLellan.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6:00 am
A four per cent increase in council tax is on the cards for the city. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

As Edinburgh Council’s SNP-Labour administration considers a council tax increase of over four per cent in the coming year to tackle cuts of around £120m in the next three years, the impact of SNP choices at Holyrood becomes clearer by the day.

Latest Scottish budget analysis by Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute shows UK spending increases should give the Scottish Government a real-terms boost of 2.1 per cent for the next two years through the Barnett formula.

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Brexit: Scotland suffers £3bn economic hit over political uncertainty

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But FoA says Scottish income tax receipts “are on track to disappoint” so the Scottish Government’s resources will only grow by one per cent despite the flow of cash from Westminster.

The problem is the Scottish Government received an estimate of income tax receipts in advance to be repaid when the money came in, but lower receipts means repayments, up to £600m in 2021-22. The Institute also warns of new pressures likely to arise from the transfer of responsibility for £3.5bn of social security spending in April next year.

It has taken a long time, but the effects of real devolution are beginning to kick in and while Edinburgh SNP councillors refuse to accept that the problems the council faces are the product of decisions taken by their masters at the end of the Royal Mile, they are running out of hiding places.

The Scottish Government will no doubt continue to blame Brexit uncertainty and deny that independence uncertainty has a worse effect but making Scotland less competitive by hiking income tax is solving nothing.

Political campaigning at 11am on Remembrance Sunday

Last Saturday the Edinburgh Greens told their followers they would be “out all over the city chatting to voters” the following day, with an 11am start in Edinburgh West. That’s 11am on Remembrance Sunday when thousands of people weren’t chatting but were observing the two-minute silence to honour the memory of those who gave up their lives so people of all persuasions can campaign in free and democratic elections in peace.

Maybe those nice, inclusive Greens just made a mistake.

Tram disruption help comes too late

The social media initiative you have all been waiting for is the new Trams to Newhaven Twitter account, launched on Tuesday to carry all the latest news from the trenches over the next three years. Got a question? it cheerily asked and very quickly in came one about support for businesses facing disruption on Constitution Street. “The council and contractors will invest £2.4m to support local business during the works,” was the reply, with a link to an information page.

Will invest? The work is due to start tomorrow but businesses are apparently still in the dark about how the scheme will operate. An “Open for business” campaign is set to launch this month, but concerns are growing in the business community that even with months of notice it’s all too late in the day.

Anyone heard from the Hardie Inquiry?

Edinburgh’s problem

Forgive my cynicism, but while glossy reports like PwC’s new Good Growth for Cities contain some interesting observations their value is as much in promoting the company as benchmarking city performances.

Successes are celebrated and failures sometimes ignored, so we might hear a bit about Edinburgh’s place in the top ten UK cities and not so much about being overtaken by Aberdeen.

Problems with housing affordability and income distribution were highlighted, and an average score for transport, but what was striking was Edinburgh’s 28th place in the list of places which had improved over the past four years. If there is an Edinburgh problem, it’s complacency.