EXPOSED: The SNP’s appalling mismanagement of Scotland’s dwindling finances.
I LIKE my bus pass. I do. And it’s handy that my council tax has been frozen. Being of a certain age and on a fixed pension income, every little helps, as the supermarket ad says.
But I, and thousands like me, would not be broken by having to stump up a little bit more or pay the ninety pence or whatever it costs to get into town.
Because what I don’t like is the shutting down of libraries and swimming pools and the cut-backs to refuse collections and jobs and further education and all the other petty savings councils are having to make to keep that council tax freeze and subsidise my travel plans.
Most of all I utterly abhor the false promises that our SNP administration has made about tackling poverty.
Those of you who do not read Scotland on Sunday (and there will be a few) may have missed the article by respected finance expert Professor Arthur Midwinter in which he asserts the SNP government “no longer has an anti-poverty programme.”
Professor Midwinter goes on to say the council freeze should end and giveaways to middle classes and high earners should be reduced to target help at the most needy.
He says, as I have, that Scotland simply cannot afford such populist policies with the “severest cuts” to public spending still to come.
Most damningly of all he demonstrates how a billion pounds of anti-poverty measures have been diverted by the SNP to patch over the local authority cuts and subsidise hand-outs for the wealthiest Scots.
A billion pounds. Sweeties it ain’t. Now Scotland on Sunday has not to my knowledge nailed its colours to the Better Together flag pole. But even it has to admit that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that somebody, somewhere has to pay. Now we know who. And Professor Midwinter shows how.
Cash for anti-poverty projects such as the Community Regeneration Fund, worth £113million, the Supporting People Fund, worth £384million, and the Fairer Scotland Fund, worth £145million, was handed over to councils without being ring-fenced, so that they could spend it in any way they wished.
In addition there was a £307million cut in the housing and regeneration budget and a £15million cut in Education Maintenance Allowance.
The professor points out: Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister claimed in 2008 her government would address the root causes of poverty once and for all. In fact poverty levels have increased since then.
It is easy to see who really benefits from the council tax freeze in particular, because we are not all equal. Someone in a Band A house benefits by £60, or 0.3 per cent of household income. At the other end of the scale, someone in a Band H house benefits by £370, or 0.8 per cent of household income.
So the better off you are, the better you fare and to hell with poverty.
This report was commissioned by Labour and , predictably, the SNP squealed. MSP Linda Fabiani said what Labour are talking about is removing free prescriptions from people with long-term conditions and taking away peoples bus passes.
Not so. Professor Midwinter is echoing spending concerns raised in commissioned reports for the SNP Finance Minister John Swinney by Crawford Beveridge and the late Cambell Christie and later leaked to the press.
Nor is he advocating that all these benefits be removed, merely targeted towards those who really need them.
Plans are afoot to reduce the Scottish block grant by a further £2.2billion over the next three years. So the worst is yet to come. In the meantime the SNP has increased spending on benefits, personal nursing care, subsidising council tax from £568million five years ago to £1666million in next year’s budget. They have shown a lamentable lack of control over Scotland’s finances. Jobs and services have suffered for populist policies for which we will ultimately pay heavily.