Deputy First Minister John Swinney (Letters, 14 January) explains that the SNP underspend last year was not £444 million but “only” £145m. A glance at the Final Outturn report shows that the health and wellbeing budget, for example, was underspent by £17m and education by £165m.
Some of this, it seems, was attributable to “variances” in expenditure or to “depreciation”.
I am puzzled. Even if we take his figure at face value, questions still arise.
Mr Swinney makes it clear that he decided last June not to spend the £145m.
So his claim that his government “ensures that we put every penny towards improving the lives of people in Scotland” evidently didn’t apply then.
Was this not a time when some of “the people in Scotland” were in need of having their lives improved – for example, those depending on food banks?
Or was it, more importantly to Mr Swinney, a time when there was a referendum campaign going on during which he apparently preferred to spend time railing about Westminster cuts to his budget to using all of the resources at his disposal to “mitigate the impact” of these cuts?
How did an additional SNP imposed cut of £145m “improve the lives of the people in Scotland”?
Mr Swinney asserts that our schools and hospitals “deserve better than the cuts to which Scotland’s budget has been subject” – a somewhat paradoxical statement given his own cut of £182m to these services!
However, Mr Swinney would presumably agree that the intention of Westminster cuts is to reduce the deficit. Why did he not take the opportunity to explain his own plans for deficit reduction – if he has any? Or does he think that signing up to an anti-austerity pact should do the trick?
Finally, given Mr Swinney’s well-publicised foresight in relation to the volatility of oil prices, it would be interesting to hear some figures on how we might fare with an oil price of $50 a barrel and how much better off we would be keeping all the “revenue raised here” rather than continuing with the current financial arrangements within the UK.
Braid Hills Avenue
All readers of The Scotsman should be grateful that the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, has taken the time to comprehensively correct the erroneous information presented by columnist Brian Wilson (Perspective, 10 January) and on which he based another tirade against the SNP and the Scottish Government.
While it is understandable that some who have seemingly been misled have thus apparently naively misrepresented the facts, and others have seemingly deliberately misrepresented the facts, one would have thought a “professional columnist” would have taken the time to research his chosen subject thoroughly before putting pen to paper.
While it would probably also be naïve to expect Brian Wilson to provide a public apology for writing a grossly misleading article based on fundamental mistakes, is it too much to hope that in future he will try harder to base his particular perspective on objectively assessed facts rather than politically biased speculation and that those who wish to exploit his often misguided arguments perhaps first do their own open-minded research?
I note that in his letter John Swinney states that the SNP government “ensures that we put every penny we receive towards improving the lives of people in Scotland”.
This is in stark contrast to a report issued by Holyrood’s finance committee investigating a £500m scheme for a preventive spending programme on areas including health and justice.
The conclusion of the committee is that it has produced little change. It would appear that this Scottish Government, when it does spend money, does not do so wisely.
It has already shown itself to be financially incompetent, as proven by its plans during the referendum and more recently those for “home rule”. It does beg the question: is this a competent government or one whose only expertise lies in the creation of antagonism and the pursuit of independence?
John B Gorrie
John Swinney’s letter makes interesting reading, particularly his belief that “Scotland will prosper best when all revenue raised here stays here”.
His own government’s March 2014 GERS data shows that, including oil revenue, Scotland spends more than it earns (deficit) to a greater extent than the rest of the UK.
The data also shows that the Scots deficit is one of the largest in the western world. This situation will have worsened considerably due to the oil price crash. This means that right now Scotland is actually benefiting considerably from what Gordon Brown termed a “pooling and sharing of resources” within the UK.
If Mr Swinney feels that Scotland would somehow benefit from shouldering the full impact of the oil price crash alone, I would be very interested in seeing his detailed analysis.
(Dr) Scott Arthur