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Jobs and public services under threat of ‘erosion’ from SNP spending review

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to explain cuts to council budgets in a backlash at SNP spending plans which will hit jobs and vital services over the next three years.

Councils in the north and north-east were left reeling by proposals on Tuesday to squeeze their core budget by another 7% in real terms by 2026/27.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ spending review on Tuesday was “deeply concerning”

It signalled “extremely limited scope” to offer staff pay rises in line with other parts of the public sector.

Ultimately it would mean “fewer jobs and cuts to services”, they claimed.

‘Shameful’

The plans sparked clashes at first minister’s questions in Holyrood on Wednesday.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross claiming it was “shameful” that £20 million was being put aside for a second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon insisted the challenges in the spending review underlined the “very heavy price” paid by Scotland as a result of Westminster decision-making.

Cosla resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said the impact of the review on council budgets would be clear.

Gail Macgregor, Cosla resources spokeswoman

“Every year at Budget time, Cosla argues for fair funding for local government to maintain the essential services our communities rely on,” she said.

“No increase in our core funding damages these services and yesterday’s announcement will see this continue for at least the next three years.

“Our communities are starting to see and feel the difference.”

Dundee City Council HQ

Dundee City Council said it was “studying the details” of the review and would bring a report to its policy and resources committee.

An analysis by independent researchers at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre identified “clear priorities” in health, social care and social security.

Spending on the health and social care portfolio is projected to increase to more than £19 billion in 2026-27, a rise of 2.6%.

‘The budget will be squeezed’

Social security assistance is forecast to increase by just under 50% over the period.

The report said: “By prioritising health and social security as it has, other parts of the budget will be squeezed.

“For example, local government’s ‘core’ resource budget is projected to be cut by 7% in real terms over the period.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

Spending on IndyRef2

At Holyrood, Mr Ross questioned why £20 million was being put aside for another Scottish independence referendum, branding it “shameful”.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s eye is off the ball all over again. She is obsessing about independence when people across Scotland overwhelmingly want the focus to be on issues that really matter to them,” he said.

“Let’s look at that £20m. That could pay for more police officers, more teachers, more nurses. It could pay for more support for people facing rising energy bills and higher costs at the supermarket.”

Ms Sturgeon said spending 0.05% of the entire Scottish budget to “give the people of this country the opportunity to choose a better future” would be a “really good investment”.

The SNP leader added: “The resource spending review that Kate Forbes set out yesterday in many ways sets out the very heavy price that people across Scotland are paying right now for continued Westminster decision-making.

“UK Government decisions have hurt our budget this year by more than 5% in real terms, they will constrain growth in our budget over the next four years to 2%, while inflation is close to 10%.”

SNP spending review: £20 million for IndyRef2 as services ‘cut to the bone’

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