Trade unions, councillors and others gathered at the Scottish Parliament on Budget Day to protest against the SNP budget that slashes allocations to Scottish councils. Shunting Tory austerity to local community services.
The Scottish Government is always claiming it needs more powers. But when it gets them, it refuses to use them. Claims to be the anti-austerity party have been shown to be simply rhetoric.
Scottish Labour today announced a bold new plan to tackle austerity.
A plan to avoid SNP cuts to local budgets and invest in the future:
Given the choice between using the Scottish Parliament's new powers or making cuts, Scottish Labour chooses to use the powers. This is the real alternative to austerity. Not just talking about opposing austerity - but taking action.
On Wednesday trade unions will join councillors in lobbying the Scottish Parliament against the cuts before they debate the budget.
Here is Unite's press release. Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Make no mistake our councils are being force fed an austerity agenda that’s been manufactured by the Tories in Westminster but delivered by the Scottish government. Invidious choices are being made across the country but the blame will ultimately come back to the Scottish government unless it is prepared to co-operate with councils and trade unions now to explore alternatives."
UNISON's press release and MSP briefing. And Dave Watson's blog post.
GMB press release.
Ken Dugdale's speech. She said:"So please… let’s put aside party politics, let’s come together and do the right thing for Scotland’s future. In the choice between using our powers and cutting Scotland’s future, we choose to use our powers."
The SNP’s budget confirmed major cuts to local authority budgets – which means cuts to the budgets for schools, roads and care of the elderly. Cuts to our councils are cuts to our communities. Austerity is being shunted down to communities in an attempt to pass the buck from SNP ministers desks.
A classic Tory budget was how Brian Wilson described it in the Scotsman:
"The really offensive part of Swinney’s budget is how he passed the burden of pain to local authorities, the traditional Tory whipping-boys. It takes a second to talk about a £500 million or 3.5 per cent cut. But this is brutal stuff which the weakest will live with daily. These numbers translate into home helps, day centres, special needs schools, classroom assistants, public libraries, sports centres… all the services which councils provide for those who need them to achieve a reasonable standard of life."
and on the Council tax freeze:
"Every difficult issue has been ducked with the council-tax freeze a prime example. It hurts the poor, because of service cuts, while those who save most – and depend least on public services – love it. So whose interests take priority? Osborne allowed councils to raise extra cash predicated for social care. Would even that have been too radical for Swinney?"
Council leaders warned that 15,000 local authority jobs will be lost as a result of cuts imposed by the Scottish budget for 2016-17.
CoSLA President David O'Neil said:
"A cut of 3.5% is catastrophic for jobs and services within Scottish local government - because the harsh reality is that it actually translates to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout Scotland. Everyone will be hurt by this."
STULP Secretary Dave Watson analyses the budget in his blog and said:
"If yesterday’s budget is “a Scottish response to austerity” then we are in very deep trouble. A response to austerity has to be more than simply administering George Osborne’s efforts to wreck our public services."
The SNP not only mislead the Scottish people, but it continues to distract attention from the issues that matter.
In a powerful article in the Scotsman, Jim Gallagher highlights the revelations of former SNP policy advisor Alex Bell who tells us that SNP leaders deliberately obfuscated the tax and spend realities of independence. He said:
“These were the actions of a government, not starry-eyed amateurs. Ministers with access to all the data, and civil service advice, chose deliberately to obscure the truth, over the biggest decision in the country’s history. It was in substance a strategy to mislead the poorest in the country into supporting independence as an escape from poverty.”
Important though the past is, his focus is on the future. He said:
“A party whose only purpose is hanging on to power substitutes populism for policy-making. Populism thrives on demonising the other: so in time of trouble Westminster can always be blamed. Politics becomes a Potemkin village – a façade of self-serving rhetoric. Witness the SNP response to poor Mr Bell – “we must be right because people vote for us”. What suffers is public policy. The symptoms of that disease are glaring already. The NHS is struggling; educational inequalities are moving in the wrong direction; the wheels are coming off Police Scotland, and more.”
Brian Wilson makes some similar points in his typically acerbic way.
Jenny Hjul takes up the theme in The Herald with a cutting analysis of the failures of the SNP ministerial team.
Angela Constance at Education has been dubbed the Minister for Gobbledegook for her inability to express herself in plain language. Ministerial press releases about improving English standards in the classroom have been easy-to-mock exercises in illiteracy, which is unhelpful for a government’s head of learning.
She was taken to task about the SNP’s ambitious childcare promises when she couldn’t answer simple questions put to her by campaigners. The Fair Funding for our Kids, left a meeting "frustrated and angry" after she was unable to tell them how many new nursery buildings were required, or how many extra training places and modern apprenticeships will be needed to ensure the right number of staff are available to work in the new nurseries.
Next there is health led by Shona Robison. On her watch, there has been a crisis in GP recruitment that has led to dozens of surgeries being taken over by health boards and primary health care targets being missed. Accident and emergency targets have also been missed every week for six years, with Glasgow’s flagship £842 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital delivering the worst performance in the country.
Then the long-serving Richard Lochhead at Rural Affairs. Farmers have been waiting weeks to hear from the Government about their Common Agricultural Policy subsidies and the fishing industry has lost faith in the minister over his "effective abandonment" of them in new conservation measures.
The above tells a picture of a government with limited ministerial talent below the First Minister and her Deputy. A government that has run out of steam and ideas. A government that blames anyone and everybody other than themselves for their failures. Scotland deserves better.
Scottish Labour Party this year was held in Perth. Here are some of the highlights:
The issues debated on Members Sunday were decided by a priority ballot of unions and CLPs. As it turned out both had the same priorities - the Trade Union Bill and Trident. As a consequence TTIP and Housing were also debated. Conference voted to oppose the TU Bill, against the replacement of Trident and outright opposition to TTIP.
Local Labour parties take the TU Bill campaign to the streets today across Scotland. There has been a great response from the public to the Scottish Labour petition.
And I think we can guess what Keir Hardie would have thought of the Bill on KeirHardie100
This is the Blog of the Scottish Trade Unions Labour Party Committee (STULP).