Scottish Government must provide fair funding for councils to prevent drastic measures like cutting 800 teachers – Scotsman comment

Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to prevent Glasgow City Council’s plan to cut a staggering 800 teaching jobs from going ahead is most welcome.

However, the Scottish Government deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the suggestion that such swingeing cuts might be made in the first place.

The SNP-led council drew up the plan because it is facing a £68 million shortfall. And that shortfall is largely due to the level of funding it receives from the Scottish Government. So it’s all very well for ministers to pledge to increase the number of teachers and classroom assistants by several thousand, but if they do not provide the money to do so, it’s little more than hot air.

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The First Minister has confirmed that her government will make sure that funding provided to councils to bolster teacher numbers is used for that purpose. However, if funding in other important areas – like social care – is cut to the bone, it is understandable if desperate councillors start to take desperate decisions like this one.

The fact that Glasgow is run by the SNP should help those who support the Scottish Government come what may see that council underfunding is a real and serious problem. The EIS teaching union blamed “persistent under-funding” of education for the crisis while, similarly, Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Stephen Kerr condemned the government’s “systemic and brutal underfunding”.

The government’s plan to restrict councils’ ability to use their funding in the way they see fit flies in the face of previous statements about local government autonomy. It could also be seen as being in conflict with the SNP's arguments about “interference” in Scotland by Westminster.

Perhaps the plan to cut 800 teachers was a negotiating tactic by Glasgow. But whether or not it was, if it is successful in producing extra cash, expect to see similar moves by other councils around the country.

But it shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t take the threat of drastic action that would have a devastating effect on the public to make the Scottish Government fund councils properly. They are responsible for many of the services that we need the most. So they should get “fair funding” – an increasingly common cry – to enable them to carry out their duties without resorting to such extreme measures.



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