SNP 'needs another £1bn' to meet pledges
MAJOR manifesto commitments by the SNP government cannot be met unless £1 billion extra is found for Scotland's local authorities, the finance secretary John Swinney was warned last night.
Mr Swinney has already faced a series of tough choices in the run-up to the administration's first budget on Wednesday, caught between a tight financial settlement from the Treasury and his party's ambitious spending plans.
One of his party's key commitments is a freeze on council tax, which will cost an estimated 500 million.
Mr Swinney was told last night that he would have to find double that sum - 1 billion - if he wanted to freeze council tax next year and fund his party's other manifesto commitments.
These include 1,000 extra police officers and reducing class sizes in the lower primaries to 18 in four years.
David Parker, independent leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: "Councils would need somewhere in the region of 500 million to do just what we are doing at the moment and look at the whole issue of council tax. If we are looking at implementing the SNP manifesto commitments, we would need 300 million, and that excludes the class-sizes commitment which would need another 200 million."
Speaking on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, Mr Parker said "something is going to have to give" and he stated: "Unless there is significant new money in the system, a number of these pledges will undoubtedly not happen."
The council leader added: "So I think, at the end of this spending-round process, some of what the SNP are trying to achieve will not be delivered."
Andy Kerr, Labour's finance spokesman, reinforced this view, saying: "Either the SNP will have to be honest and jettison those pledges they made to the Scottish people, the ones that got them elected, or they are going to leave local authorities in chaos trying to deliver those pledges."
Mr Swinney said yesterday that he would push ahead with his party's priorities, including its pledge to abolish the council tax altogether, and he would publish a consultation on that in the next few weeks.
Mr Swinney also claimed Scots would be 10,000 a year better off by transforming the country's economy.
"I want to make sure that I set out a course that will take us in that direction, not in the next couple of years but over a ten-year period," he said.
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