Scottish Budget: Derek Mackay accused of using '˜sleight of hand' to conceal council cuts

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has been accused of using 'sleight of hand' to conceal cuts to local councils.

During First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie said extra funding announced in yesterday’s draft budget actually amounted to a real-terms cut for local councils.

Mr Harvie highlighted work by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) which he said showed there would be a £300m cut to local services.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Scottish Government has in the past relied on the support of the Greens to get its budgets through parliament.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivered his draft budget yesterday. Picture: PA Wire

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was open to having “constructive discussions” with other parties about how the money should be spent.

Mr Harvie said hundreds of millions of pounds in new Scottish Government commitments, including on nursery places, would be taken from what should be core funding for council services such as schools, social care and libraries.

Read More

Read More
Scottish Budget RECAP: Derek Mackay delivers financial plans

He said the commitments should be funded from national budgets, not a “raid” on council resources.

He said: “Once again, this claims ignores the fact the Scottish Government is forcing councils to use their resources to fund Scottish Government policies.

“Parliament’s independent research unit – whose impartial work sometimes shows the truth somewhere between what the Scottish Government and local government say – they produced more detailed work, saying the truth is more than a £300m cut to local services.

“Councils around the country are now being forced to look at cuts to schools, social care, parks, libraries. Where does the First Minister think those cuts should fall?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “The settlement outlined yesterday by Derek Mackay does deliver a real-terms increase in both revenue and capital funding to local councils – that’s before we take account of councils’ own ability to raise revenue through the council tax.

“Yes, that includes funding that the Scottish Government has made available to increase childcare – £210m in revenue for childcare. It includes a transfer from Health to help fund social care. These are all important priorities.”

She added: “I’m going to make the same offer to Patrick Harvie as I made to Richard Leonard. We have allocated all of the resources at our disposal in this budget. I would like to do more for local government, for health, in a whole range of different areas. If opposition parties want extra spending in some areas of the budget, then there is a duty to say in what areas they think that money should come from. We are happy to have those constructive discussions. They have to be hard-headed discussions because we can’t create money out of nowhere.”