The budget unveiled by the Scottish Government last week at Holyrood is one of the most important in recent years.
Thanks to the investment of the UK Government, the Scottish budget available to the SNP Government in Edinburgh increased by £1.1 billion. As a result the Scottish Government had the opportunity to invest this money to improve vital public services across Scotland, including here in Stirling.
As always however, the SNP Government has managed to deliver a budget which fails to deliver across the board.
Despite all the inevitable spin by the Scottish Government it now looks like, according to COSLA, the budgets of local councils are being cut by £95 million in the coming year. Additionally, there will also be a reduction of £117 million in capital funding allocations. That’s and astonishing £212 million being ripped out of the pockets of local authorities, who have already been continually squeezed by this SNP Government over the last 13 years.
Constituents living here in the Stirling Council area have seen in recent years, a whole range of cuts to local services, they have seen a reduction in teacher numbers, classroom assistants being laid off, school crossing patrollers being laid off, because of the SNP cutting the grant to local government. The SNP had the opportunity in this budget with £1.1 billion coming from Westminster to support local councils this time around. Instead they have taken the choice to slash again the budgets of local authorities.
This is not the only choice which the SNP have made in this budget.
They have also failed to deliver the extra funding requested by Police Scotland to protect the number of police officers in Scotland and deal with the crumbling police estate.
Failed also to invest in solutions to Scotland’s drugs death crisis where the Scottish Conservatives had called for an extra £15 million to go into the creation of more drug rehabilitation beds. This investment would have improved the prospects for vulnerable residents considerably, and would have given them a chance of beating their destructive habit.
And once again, this budget will see a higher income tax burden being imposed on hard working people, with everybody who earns over £27,000 paying more income tax here in Scotland than the rest of the UK.
So why has this SNP Government failed to use the additional funding coming from Westminster and invest in the immediate priorities of the people of Scotland?
The answer is two-fold.
Firstly, this SNP Government’s failure to grow Scotland’s economy has meant that there is a £200 million black hole in the budget as a result of lower income tax receipts north of the border. This shortfall therefore eats into higher funding coming from the UK Government under the fiscal framework, which is the mechanism agreed between Scotland’s two governments for the funding allocations given to the government in Edinburgh.
Secondly, the income tax increases imposed by the SNP on the hard-working people of Stirling and beyond has meant that the last two budgets have failed to deliver the expected additional revenue to the Scottish Government’s budget.
According to the widely respected Fraser of Allander Institute: “the effect of the higher tax rates in Scotland is cancelled out by the fact that the outlook for wage growth in Scotland is slower than in the rest of the UK’’.
These technical details of the budget ultimately mean that many of my hard-working constituents are paying more tax, taking less pay home, not to support extra public spending- but to subsidise the failures of this SNP Government when it comes to growing the economy.
And make no mistake – the SNP’s economic failures are clear to see. Economic growth has been 5% lower than that of the UK as a whole over the last 13 years, we have a record budget deficit of 7% which is the highest in Europe and in figures published by the Scottish Government the size of Scotland’s economy was revised downwards by a remarkable 3%.
It is time for the SNP to recognize the reality behind this budget. It’s economic failures are costing Scotland billions of pounds in extra funding coming from Westminster.
I remain available to discuss any issues with constituents and should you wish to book an appointment in one of my surgeries then please contact my office for more details