Swinney’s fiscal deal deserves praise but does it come with a whiff of hypocrisy?

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Fair play to John Swinney – or perhaps to Nicola Sturgeon – for negotiating a good fiscal framework deal for Scotland (The Scotsman, 24 February).

Interestingly, both the First Minister and her deputy were justifiably proud that they had “protected” the Barnett formula. Surely this nails for good any claims that this mechanism is not a very good deal for Scotland – and with such a good deal still in place thanks to Mr Swinney, why would we want another independence referendum for at least another six years, if ever?

Also interesting was Mr Swinney’s insistence throughout that any deal would have to satisfy the “no detriment” principle. What a pity he was not similarly motivated in his recent dealings with local authorities. The “no detriment” principle seemed to take a back seat as he held a gun to their heads to force through his £350 million worth of cuts. However, since Mr Swinney tells us that such cuts will have “minimal impact”, he presumably believes that in this case too there will be “no detriment”.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

As John Swinney was getting his latest budget rubber-stamped in Holyrood, some MSPs must have been feeling pangs of guilt as they reflected on the previous day’s proceedings of the Scottish parliament’s Education committee (“Schools face major cuts to services in Budget funding axe”, 24 February). Local council education chiefs explained to the committee some of the stark realities of the latest round of severe cuts on our children’s education.

There is no doubt that John Swinney is adept at spinning the financial consequences of political decisions to best suit the SNP government’s populist agenda, but as he passes on a disproportionate amount of the budget strain to our councils, the Education committee was told of examples of the harsh consequences in terms of loss of classroom assistants, transport and music provision. These impacts on the quality and effectiveness of the education provided to our children are a direct cost of the SNP’s decisions.

It is also clear that these outcomes will undermine any hopes of an early reversal of the trend of under-attainment of children from the most deprived areas. Taking a very large sum away from councils with one hand, and seeking kudos for injecting a smaller amount aimed at the attainment issue, as the SNP have done, will rightly be viewed as political sleight of hand of the most cynical kind.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

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