On Thursday 2nd February I spoke in relation to the draft Scottish Government budget and the impending budget cuts to Dumfries and Galloway Council.
You can read the full speech below or watch below:
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a local councillor. At the end of last week’s Labour debate on the budget, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution made a telling comment when he said:“we are in a Parliament, not a council chamber. Maybe the debate should have been conducted in that way.”It seems that the more than 1,200 men and women across Scotland who serve their communities as local councillors, more than 360 of whom are SNP councillors, are not capable of the level of debate of which Mr Mackay is capable.Those men and women, of all political persuasions and none, are currently wrestling with tough and painful decisions about which services in the community should be cut and which of their neighbours’ jobs should be axed.
I appreciate the member giving way, and I agree with a great deal of what he said about the relationship between central and local government and the need for more investment as well as more local control. However, the Green approach has brought his local council £5 million more that it would not have had otherwise. How much difference has the Labour approach made?
I say to Mr Harvie that I have done the maths on my local council in Dumfries and Galloway.It means that, instead of having to plug a £20 million funding gap, because of the cuts it will have a £16 million revenue funding gap. Perhaps Mr Harvie will tell me, along with the SNP, exactly where that £16 million-worth of cuts will come from.I also say this to the Greens and to Mr Harvie: as I have shown, the deal that they have done will still mean millions of pounds of cuts to council services, and members on this side of the chamber will not rest until every single voter in every single ward with a Green candidate at the council elections in May knows exactly who has voted with the SNP to cut their local jobs and services. It says a lot about the Green Party that, in his speech, Patrick Harvie spent more time attacking Labour for opposing the cuts than he did opposing the SNP for proposing the cuts.We on this side of the chamber know that all those cuts can be avoided—all of them, not just some of them. This Parliament has the power to make different choices, to be genuinely progressive and to say that if we want decent public services, we need to fund them properly. That is what Labour’s amendment does.Members have a choice. They can vote through a draft budget that still includes £169 million-worth of cuts to council services and jobs, or they can send a clear message to this Government to come back with a new or amended budget that says, “No ifs, no buts, no more cuts”.