SNP austerity

Only a few weeks ago the SNP were fighting the Council elections as part of a campaign for Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref 2 and local issues did not get a look-in in many candidates’ literature. This was in line with longer term SNP strategy which has discouraged their councillors from becoming involved in contentious local issues as these are distracting and risk blowback, and so do not aid an independence mission which overrides everything.

Anyone who doubts this should take a hard look at the issues their local SNP councillors and candidates have taken a lead in over the last few years. Of course there are exceptions, but many SNP councillors have been invisible or johnny-come-latelys. Attendance records are also worth checking as some SNP councillors have given community council meetings a body-swerve, as well as empty-chairing Area Committee meetings and other Fife Council commmittee meetings. In 2014 one SNP councillor’s absence in Kirkcaldy was so blatant that he was discovered to have been living in Austria since he was elected.

As Nicola Sturgeon has realised opposition to her Indyref 2 is hardening and growing among prospective voters, including SNP supporters, she has shied away from treating the council vote as a “warm-up” to that referendum, let alone as another mandate for her demand for a second referendum. So now she is trying to orientate the local election campaign away from independence and towards local services, and specifically the impacts of “tory austerity”.

The problem here isn’t just that her councillors have a very poor record in standing up for local services. It’s that the real reason for their failure is SNP austerity. Between 2010 and the new financial year, the Holyrood budget increased by 0.4% in real terms. In the same period, the Scottish Government has cut like-for-like, real terms funding to local councils by 19.4%, as ­confirmed by their own figures.

Blaming these cuts on “tory austerity” does not wash when the Barnett Formula has continually given the Scottish government more money and ensured that public spending for every man, woman and child in Scotland is £1500 higher than in the rest of the UK.

SNP austerity has been the result of the SNP’s power grab: its central government has systematically sought to grab and retain as much power, control and money as possible. This hasn’t just  strangled councils and created real suffering for those who rely on their services; it has also put local democracy in an SNP straitjacket.

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