10
Apr
2018
0

“Decisive leadership”: David Alexander spinning for Derek Mackay

Sir,

Audit Scotland’s report on local authority finances should be ringing alarm bells across Scotland. The watchdog identified a real terms funding cut of 9.6% over the last 8 years, with the loss of 35,000 council jobs. The effect is now being seen in services strained to breaking point, falling public satisfaction in everything from classroom sizes to potholes, with worse to come. The headline of Audit Scotland’s report was “Decisive leadership needed as council savings ‘increasingly critical'”.

So in wades David Alexander, SNP co-leader of Fife Council, with a statement faithfully following his master, Finance Minister Derek Mackay (Courier, 6 April): Audit Scotland is “wasting time on reporting the ‘blinding obvious'” and failing to blame the budget reductions on Westminster cuts to the Scottish Government budget.

This is pure propaganda – which is why Audit Scotland didn’t repeat it. Even the Scottish Government does not dare to claim its budget has been correspondingly cut by Westminster by 9.6% since 2010 because this is demonstrably untrue. Some of the most precise analysis has been done by the Fraser of Allander Institute, which shows that the real terms cut to the Scottish Government budget since 2010-11 is 3.8 per cent, with the 2017-18 budget on a par with 2007-08. On that measure, councils should be receiving the same settlement as a decade ago, rather than heading for penury.

It’s far easier, of course, to hide behind emotive shouts of Tory austerity and appeals to the nationalist prejudice that Westminster always shortchanges Scotland. So much for “decisive leadership” from the SNP, whether at Holyrood or Fife House.

Yours etc

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