More than £120 million of taxpayers’ cash has been been used for severance deals as Scotland’s public sector sheds thousands of jobs, figures obtained by The Scotsman have found.
About 7,000 staff have taken deals in the past three years as ongoing austerity means councils, universities and the NHS continue to axe staff, a freedom of information request has found.
The SNP cannot wash their hands of the role that they have played in putting councils and local services under enormous pressure as they took their eye off the ball to focus on independenceJim Hume
And as a fresh wave of spending cuts loom in the next two years under plans set out by the main Westminster parties, there are growing fears that the impact on services will start to bite.
But opposition parties at Holyrood say decisions taken by the SNP government have “tied the hands” of councils and left services facing major pressure.
Despite hopes that the worst of the cuts had passed, it emerged that almost £25m was paid out by councils in 2014-15 in redundancy and severance payments – and some deals are still being finalised, meaning the final figures are likely to prove far higher.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: “The SNP have tied the hands of local authorities and put them in a hugely difficult position. The money that has been spent on payoffs for staff needs to be looked at carefully, but some would say that councils are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
“The SNP cannot wash their hands of the role that they have played in putting councils and local services under enormous pressure as they took their eye off the ball to focus on independence.”
The figures obtained by The Scotsman show that £25m was paid out by councils alone, while universities paid out than £15m in early retirement and severance deals with the loss of more than 1,000 staff.
A spokesman for the SNP said: “If Labour and the Tories – who are both signed up to a further £30 billion of austerity cuts – get their way, our public services will face further pressure. That’s why the SNP has put forward sensible plans for a modest 0.5 per cent increase in public spending – to put a stop to Westminster’s damaging cuts and allow real investment in our public services.”
Glasgow is facing a £28.9m budget black hole next year and £100m over the next three years. In West Lothian, £30.4m needs to be saved and Fife has a budget gap of £77m over the next three years.
A spokesman for local government body Cosla said: “Yes, there has been a managed structured redesign of services in some council areas. However, this has been done with no compulsory redundancies to date.
“These have been carefully considered and have all been spend-to-save decisions.
“In relation to the future it is hard to tell, yes, there could be difficult decisions to take but these will have a solid basis in financial prudence.
“Protection of the most vital services to the public will be foremost in our mind for all decisions going forward, just as they have been to this point.”
Tory enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser said the party had been forced to cut the deficit after the last Labour government left the “worst set of public finances amongst major nations”.
“This has meant a reduction in public sector employment – but this has been more than offset by the dramatic growth in private sector jobs,” Mr Fraser said.