On Thursday Glasgow City Council set its budget. Yet again it faces a real terms cut.
The SNP will, as they always do, naturally seek to blame Westminster, and it is true that funding reductions by the UK government have had an effect. But these have been intensified as the Nationalist government in Edinburgh has hacked away at Glasgow’s share of the overall local authority pot year after year.
Since the SNP minority government first allied with the Tories to set a budget in 2008, a habit they continued throughout their first term, Glasgow has lost £370,000,000, in total, and the pace has been accelerating. The Scottish government’s own figures show that if Glasgow got the same share of the pot as it did under Labour, it would have had an extra £96m this year. Glasgow City Council’s estimates for the coming year are that this gap will swell to £109m, as Scotland’s biggest city once again sees its share cut. We now know where at least a hefty piece of the SNP’s £444m underspend has come from. It has been stolen from the people of Glasgow.
The Nationalists insist that they are helpless in the face of Westminster. Indeed this was the line dutifully parroted by Nationalist councillors in the budget debate. At no point were any of them prepared to diverge from the line they were given by Edinburgh and fight for their constituents’ interests.
These lines from Holyrood would be more believable, were it not for the fact that some areas seem to have been strangely shielded from the storm according to figures directly from the Scottish government.
Angus, the only council where the Nationalists have an outright majority, and which sends SNP MP Mike Weir to parliament, has seen its share of the pot actually increase, so that it has had an extra £3m this year than it would under the allocation when the SNP came to power.
Perth & Kinross, run by the SNP with Tory support and returning an SNP MP in Pete Wishart, has seen its share of the pot go up year on year, and had an additional £13m in its 2014-15 budget from these adjustments to funding shares.
Aberdeenshire, the Local Authority where Alex Salmond had his Westminster seat for many years and where he hopes to have one again, gets an extra £16m this year. Aberdeenshire has an unemployment rate a third of that of Glasgow.
Some might say that deliberately starving Labour heartlands to subsidise your own rural and suburban base was playing politics with people’s lives. It has long been a Tory tactic. And it seems, during their long entanglement at Holyrood, they have taught it to the Nationalists.
Just as the Thatcher government tore down the democratic structures of the urban centres of England for daring to oppose her, so the Nationalists, similarly intolerant of dissent, are deliberately throttling Scotland’s greatest city.
The formula is simple. Slash a council’s revenue stream, bar it from raising money through the rates, let the difficult cases fall onto the social care roles and then watch as Labour councils are forced to do your dirty work of cuts for you, while you use every crisis to centralise power.
The Nationalists seek to lecture Labour on its roots, while their policies are socialism in reverse. Let us be clear. The redistribution away from areas of need is by definition regressive. This is not “progressive politics”, it is the antithesis.
The Nationalist attacks on local democracy, most recently articulated by their MSP Joan McAlpine, argue that Scotland’s cities cannot go it alone. Holyrood thinks Glasgow is too feart to stand up to it, to demand that it gets its fair share. The people of this great city do not need to be protected from their decisions by the government in Edinburgh, and still less will they stand for being robbed so the Nationalists can buy votes in its heartlands.
Labour has an alternative. The party has pledged to give the cities of our island the resources to solve their own problems. We are one of the great industrial, cosmopolitan cities of Europe, and given our fair share of money and power there is so much more that could be done. Glasgow must not be denied this opportunity because of nation-building politicians in Edinburgh.
Matt Kerr is a Labour councillor in Glasgow.