Today’s Scottish Budget was a typical John Swinney fudge. It is lighter on detail than it should have been and it is disappointing that John Swinney wouldn’t give the figures for more than one year. You might have concluded that John Swinney does not expect to be Finance Cabinet Secretary this time next year. You would be right.
The one year only budget is a dangerous way for every school, hospital and college in Dundee and elsewhere in Scotland to try and plan ahead. Hard working staff have no way of knowing what to expect from the SNP. They can’t take sensible decisions if they don’t have the future plans.
On the day when unemployment is going up in Dundee and across Scotland but down in the rest of the UK, the SNP is wrong to cut support for enterprise, colleges and tourism, but failed to cut high pay, bonuses and waste. Under the SNP the highest paid staff in the NHS still keep £26 million of bonuses.
Another wasted opportunity.
Yesterday John Swinney, the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance and (no) Sustainable Growth told the SNP Conference of “very significant restraint” of pay for all public sector workers in Scotland. Today, Alex Salmond is going to confirm fears that the SNP Government is going to cut the number of police forces in Scotland. The SNP is presiding over cuts in nursing staff across Scotland – one Health Board is cutting 553 nursing jobs.
So, its an obvious time for the SNP to annouce that they will continue with implementation of their policy of free prescriptions for millionaires.
It is about time this SNP government of cheap headlines and no responsibility woke up and smelt the coffee.
The Finance Secretary has also responded to our demand for debt-financing support for Scottish business. Too many businesses we have spoken to simply cannot get access to loans through their bank. A Federation of Small Business report this week shows that our priority on this is right. These soundly-based businesses need government support to get through the recession. This has now been agreed by the Scottish Government and further detailed plans – using European funding – will be announced shortly.
• The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has been an expensive failure. It is a political white elephant which has achieved nothing for Scotland. It should be scrapped.
• Far from a radical alternative that will revolutionise public investment, the SNP’s much-derided flagship financial policy has turned out simply to be a new quango which will act as an advisory body for the public sector. It has no funding stream and there is no evidence of when or how it will make the promised annual £150 million efficiency savings.
• Projects around the country are being delayed as a result of the SFT uncertainty. In a recession there is a serious need to delivered infrastructure for Scotland’s economy but the SFT is fast becoming a national embarrassment. The SNP must put the Futures Trust in the past and get on with building the schools and hospitals Scotland needs.
The Scottish Futures Trust & School Building:
• Under the School Building Programme the first primary school won’t be built until 2011, the first secondary school in 2013 and some schools will be delayed until 2018. The SNP pledged that they would match the previous administration’s school building ‘brick for brick’. However, the School Building Programme is only funding 14 secondary schools and 21 primary and specialist schools.
• Despite LibDem calls for the reintroduction of level playing field support for councils which would have helped councils plan ahead with their school building, the Government neither listened nor delivered.
Six public sector executive board members are paid more than Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister (£197 000) or Alex Salmond, First Minister (£145 000). A further 1 596 are paid between £80 000 and £100 000 — more than a Scottish government minister. The total salary bill for the highest-paid is at least £400 million a year.
If you go tohttp://tinyurl.com/fatcatpay, you can read the Courier’s news report about this – and I publish below the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ news release about the matter. What is clear is that the SNP government is taking no action to tackle the issue – disgraceful given the financial and economic challenges facing Scotland. Scott challenges Salmond to cut the fat cat pay bill
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott MSP challenged the First Minister to cut the fat cat pay bill by 2010.
At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Scott revealed that nearly 3,400 people in the public sector get paid more than a Scottish Government Minister does. They receive a total of almost £401 million in pay each year.
Commenting, Mr Scott said:
“At least 3,400 people in the public sector in Scotland get paid more than a Scottish Government Minister. Some even get paid more than Alex Salmond’s three salaries as MP, MSP and First Minister added together.
“They receive a total of £401 million in pay every year.
“All across vital public services people at the bottom of the income scale are being threatened with losing their jobs. Statistics last week show that the number of young people unemployed has never been higher.
“People will not understand why the Government lets this pay chasm between richest and poorest continue.
“The First Minister and his Government are in charge of public sector pay. It was John Swinney who awarded the new Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise her bumper £203,000 salary and handed the Chief Executive of the Scottish Futures Trust a fat £180,000 paycheque.
“I want a fair society where the very well paid are expected to share the burden of tight government spending, not just the poorest and unemployed.
“The First Minister needs to set a target as part of his Budget to reduce that pay bill and spend the money on creating skills and jobs for young people instead. It’s right that the people who get such a vast share of public money should shoulder a fair share of the burden in these tough times.”