SNP austerity can’t fix the potholes – they just get bigger

SNP austerity can’t fix the potholes – they just get bigger

by Max Young
article from Tuesday 30, March, 2021

THE SNP ARGUES CONSTANTLY that Tory austerity imposed by an overbearing Westminster government is an evil that strongly affects Scotland. The reality is the SNP leadership has imposed more widespread and extremely damaging cuts than ever considered in Westminster. 

Local councils are amongst the worst-affected by a slew of cuts inflicted by the SNP since its politicians came to power. Glasgow has suffered a real-term reduction in local authority spending of £233 per Glaswegian resident from 2014-2019, a fall of 11 per cent. Glasgow City Council has reported a funding gap of £12.2 million for next year. South Lanarkshire Council will in 2021 miss out on £53 million.  

Unfortunately, SNP-controlled councils refuse to fight back. They instead toe the party line, endorse every new cut from Sturgeon in Edinburgh, and endlessly express gratitude for any small funds that are promised by central government.  

The results? Farce. SNP Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken has now asked residents of the city to help clean it up themselves before the COP26 climate change conference in November.  

Councils can’t afford to fix potholes, a huge problem for motorists, although garages are benefitting. “Pothole damage is keeping my business going very well,” said Marie Aitkenhead, owner of Byres Road Garage in Glasgow. “In a week I would do around 15 to 20 cars which have been damaged because of problems with road surfaces”. Some potholes are so big that they can be seen from space. Most other basic services such as bin collection are also suffering cuts, with waste collection only occurring every three weeks in some areas.

The SNP government likes to blame the Conservatives but the truth is quite different. SNP austerity is the problem.

Figures from the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that between 2013-14 and 2019-20, the Scottish Government’s revenue budget was cut by 2 per cent by the UK Government. But over the same period, the SNP Government has hit councils with a staggering 7 per cent reduction in funding in real terms. That’s more than three times the fall in funding from Westminster – the reality is that Scotland’s austerity is made in Scotland – by the Scottish Government!

A 2 per cent cut might be managed by efficiency gains and improved productivity – but a cut of 7 per cent requires hard-hitting austerity measures, meaning the cancelation of services has become a stark reality.

As Anas Sarwar has pointed out, the SNP’s continuing reluctance to provide local authorities with much-needed and promised funds has, combined with the effects of unmatched inflation, led to a gap of £3.86 billion since 2014 in the budgets of councils across Scotland. This equates to a shocking £1,544 per household that is sorely missed. 

Councils are nevertheless forced by the SNP government to deliver on its lofty (but unfulfilled) promises of expanded childcare provision and ringfenced funding. This means that they will have to find the money in their core budgets, reserved for basic services. The SNP Government has cut councils’ non-ringfenced revenue funding by £937.3 million in real teams between 2013-14 and 2021-22. 

Centralisation is a core SNP aim. In 2010 the SNP Government closed down the Highlands and Islands Partnership Programme, a highly successful project that allocated structural spending to the region, in order to control the money itself from Edinburgh. It is not the only programme of this kind to be shut down and its funds centralised.  

Instead of funding being placed in the hands of accountable local councils it is instead funnelled through the incompetent SNP central government to be released both later and less efficiently. As another example, while the £5 billion for shops, bars and restaurants in England announced in the budget is being distributed through local authorities, the SNP Government has chosen to control itself the additional funding provided by the UK Government. 

Cosla, the organisation that represents Scotland’s councils, has warned that years of unending cuts have led to widespread redundancies in local authorities and a lapse in the work of councils on basic work like potholes and bin collection. Meanwhile, the SNP has blindsided local officials by forcing a further freeze on council tax, the revenue from which some had hoped would alleviate the worst effects of cuts. 

The SNP cries “power grab” whenever anyone proposes that money goes directly to communities instead of being sent through the bureaucratic sewage pipes of Scotland’s maligned central government. Every attempt by Westminster to fund development in Scotland without handing the SNP a blank cheque prompts further angry protest from nationalists. Yet where were these cries when the EU funded infrastructure and development in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas?  

The SNP has already shown itself to be ludicrously inept at directing money anywhere and with any efficiency. It burns cash on disastrous ferry projects, is duped by dodgy businessmen and hoards funds in its coffers for an independence campaign. Its centralisation and control mania has deprived accountable and in-touch local councils from receiving desperately needed millions to fix the roads and collect the bins.  

Sturgeon’s party machine is now more desperate than ever to retain the grip it has on an increasingly centralised Scotland. It doesn’t want people to see progress on the streets as being the result of hard work by council officials or local police forces – it wants loyal citizens to endlessly thank their gracious benefactor, the SNP. The only problem is the SNP-controlled bureaucracy can’t be as effective as these local systems once were. Scots are beginning to notice the potholes, and realise that the SNP won’t fill them. 

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Max Young is an undergraduate student at Edinburgh University.    

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