Nicola Sturgeon today came under fire over cuts to local education services being imposed by SNP councils around Scotland.
MSPs heard that one Nationalist council in Perth and Kinross is voting through reductions today which could see schools “close down” on some occasinos because the entire budget for supply teachers is being cut. Another SNP council in Aberdeenshire is to cut the education budget by £3 million.
Opposition parties accused Ms Sturgeon at First Ministers Questions of passing on Westminster cuts to councils. Town hall chiefs were this week forced to accept £350 million of cuts in their budget from the Scottish Government for 2016/17.
Labour and the Lib Dems have called Holyrood to back a 1 pence rise in income tax when they vote on the issue this afternoon, which they say would raise £475 million of resources to offset the impact of the cuts, but has been rejected by the Scottish Government.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “It’s clear that the SNP plan to cut education funding even more.
“Scottish Labour’s plan to set an Income Tax rate 1p higher than that set by George Osborne means we can invest in the future. We can use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to schools and other public services.
“The SNP’s cuts will damage our economy and stop young people from achieving their potential. Even one of the SNP’s own councils warns of the severe consequences to schools because of the cuts they are being forced to make. It doesn’t have to be this way.
“Faced with the choice between using the powers of our Parliament to invest in the future or cutting schools, it’s disappointing that the First Minister chooses cuts.”
Labour say the cuts in Perth and Kinross - the backyard of finance secretary John Swinney - will mean cuts to help for children with additional support needs, as well as early years teachers and Maths and English teachers.
But Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that average spending per primary pupil has increased by 11% - £496 since 2006 - while the average spending on Secondary pupils has increased by 10%, or £618.
Total revenue spending on schools has increased by £208 million.
the First Minister added: “That’s the record of this SNP Government. We will continue to act to protect the number of teachers in our schools and we will continue at act to address the attainment gap and I am happy to ask the people of Scotland in a few week time to judge us on that record.”
Ms Sturgeon said that councils are facing a cut of 2% in their budgets but this is being offset by £250 million in funding to merge health and social care.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie highlighted the cuts in Aberdeenshire and called on Ms Sturgeon to “call a halt.”
Mr Rennie added: “This afternoon this Parliament votes on the income tax resolution. One penny gives £475 million for education for Scotland’s children. It’s the power to stop the cuts.
“She has the power. Why won’t she use it? Is it pride, is her Finance Secretary, or does she simply not care any more?”