Budget blunders

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Instead of explaining what cuts to services are made elsewhere in the budget in order to fund the SNP’s policies on universal benefits, Douglas Turner (Letters, November 12) rolls out the standard response of criticism of “the unionist parties”.

Perhaps he has a point. These policies did come into force when the SNP was in bed with the arch-unionist party, the 
Tories – an inconvenient truth which the SNP and its apologists prefer to forget.

Of course, the amount that is in the overall budget is important. But the question at issue is not how big the cake is but how it is to be divided. And that is entirely the remit of the SNP or whatever party is in power in Scotland.

I offer one example of a cut resulting from the SNP’s “universalist” approach.

The SNP choose to offer free university tuition to all Scottish students – including, for example, those whose parents have annually paid significantly more than the £9000 university tuition fee to send them to independent schools.

One measure to protect this policy was the £35 million cut last year from the budget for student bursaries. The household income threshold was reduced from £19,300 to £17,000 and the amount payable from £2450 to £1750. This looks to me suspiciously like taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Is it any surprise that the number of students enrolling from the most deprived backgrounds is going down not up? And it is unlikely that they are enrolling in colleges instead, since the SNP have cut 140,000 places from that sector.

The Labour Party looks to me like the only party which could deliver a fairer society in Scotland.

Will its new leader have the gumption to grasp the nettle as Johann Lamont did and risk losing voter appeal by questioning the validity of universal benefits?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue