I am indeed flattered to read two letters attacking me and the alternative Conservative budget in last week’s paper from SNP Councillors Fay Sinclair and Ian Ferguson. One even bracketed me with Theresa May!
The alternative Conservative budget would not only have avoided this year’s savage cuts to education, voluntary groups, health and social care, but found much-needed extra funding for education, roads, voluntary groups, community safety and recycling centres.
It’s good that our budget is touching a nerve with the administration.
It’s high time Nicola Sturgeon’s acolytes in Fife stopped following the nationalist hymn sheet of pretending they have no choice but to cut services year on year. The fact is that the Barnett settlement gives the Scottish Government billions more to spend on local government than in England, and every year the SNP at Holyrood withholds this extra cash from councils. The hope, of course, is that the more people suffer the effects of austerity, and the more the SNP talk this up as evil Westminster’s fault, the more people will flock to the nationalist cause.
But this cynical strategy of SNP austerity+ doesn’t seem to be working. Support for a second independence referendum is waning and every day newspapers are full of stories of SNP failings in education, health, transport, policing etc. At a Fife level, people’s dissatisfaction with Fife Council is evident on the doors and in every community council meeting we attend. If life in the SNP bubble has protected Cllrs Ferguson and Sinclair from these home truths, they should take a look at the public response to their budget on the Fife Council facebook page.
As Convenor of the Education Committee, Cllr Sinclair carries direct responsibility for the problems afflicting schools in Fife: record levels of teacher stress, absence and assaults (the majority unreported), pupils needing additional support left in the lurch, head teachers cutting the school week and leaving vacant positions unfilled in a desperate quest to manage shrinking budgets. That standards and results haven’t nosedived as yet is down to the skill and dedication of heads and teachers, but the situation in our schools with year on year reducing budgets and growing demands is plainly unsustainable.
With teachers in Fife now threatening strike action, it’s frankly amazing that the Education Convenor has the leisure to write letters to the paper attacking serious budget suggestions which would enable her to reverse these damaging cuts in our schools.