Kezia Dugdale: Capital punishment at the hands of the SNP
Not since the dawn of devolution has the Capital faced such a punishing cash deal from the Scottish Government as it does in 2017.
A swingeing 5.2 per cent cut will slash the money to spend on valued public services in Edinburgh by more than £37 million.
This could have a devastating effect on the city’s schools and services such as care for the elderly.
These are not cuts from the Tories in Westminster: they are cuts from the SNP in Holyrood, which total £327m across Scotland.
To make matters worse, a statistical blunder by the SNP government saw Edinburgh’s deal reduced by £8m within hours of the budget announcement.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s draft budget for 2017-18 is a shambolic mess. It’s one a Tory Chancellor would have been proud of.
Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns has said this is “currently the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999”.
He should know: Andrew has been a local councillor for nearly 18 years and I would like to thank him for his long service as a champion of our great city. He will be greatly missed when he stands down at May’s local election.
Labour councils are now the last bulwark against SNP austerity.
Edinburgh Council has tried, like so many other Labour-led councils across the country, to mitigate the impact of these SNP cuts to protect the poorest. But with one in five children in Edinburgh growing up in poverty, it is unacceptable for the SNP government to continue to force further cuts onto communities.
Just weeks ago, Scotland was handed the worst education report since devolution. It revealed that Scotland is declining when compared with other countries in reading, maths and science.
More figures released earlier this month found that one-in-four primary school pupils leaves school unable to read at the expected level.
That’s the consequence of nearly a decade of SNP cuts, which sees Scotland with 4000 fewer teachers and an 18 per cent fall in support staff. The SNP told us that education was its number one priority – so why slash local council budgets by £327m in the coming year?
The dire education figures followed Scotland’s worst state of the NHS report since devolution. On seven out of eight key standards, the SNP is failing.
The way to fix our NHS for the long term is by investing in social care for the elderly, to take pressure off our hospitals and hard-working NHS staff.
But the SNP plans to slash the budgets of councils which deliver social care by a further £327m.
The Nationalists don’t have to do this. The Scottish Government has the power to take a different path now.
Labour will table amendments to the SNP budget in the New Year. When schools are facing budget cuts we think the richest few should pay their fair share. That’s why we back a 50p top rate of tax for the top one per cent earning more than £150,000 a year.That would generate extra money to invest in education. But alone it wouldn’t be enough to stop the cuts, which is why we support a small 1p increase in income tax.
Labour will not vote for a budget that imposes even more cuts to public services. The question people will ask is why would the SNP?
Kezia Dugdale is an MSP for the Lothian Region and leader of the Scottish Labour Party