Under the Salmond-Sturgeon regimes, the islands have absorbed a 17 per cent cut with much worse to follow. A further £10 million of cuts are being planned and job losses are expected to double from the 230 so far.
These are devastating figures in a community of 30,000 people where employment opportunities are few. In many parts of the islands, there are not enough people left to provide services for an ageing population.
This cruel treatment is based on double-jeopardy – your population is falling, therefore we will give you less money which, in turn, helps ensure your population will fall further.
If “Westminster” was to espouse such a crass approach, Holyrood would be in indignation overdrive.
Plenty lip-service is paid to the contribution of our periphery to enrichimg Scottish life, blah, blah, blah. But when it comes to actual treatment of fragile rural communities, there is no positive philosophy or even joined-up thinking.
Islands are not “subsidised”. An audit of what their collective industries contribute in tax revenues, not to mention the images they provide to all aspects of Scottish promotional activity, would show a healthy surplus.
However, they depend heavily on public services, reliable transport links and first-class interconnectivity to overcome barriers of remoteness. Instead, service are slashed via an inflexible formula, transport services are in disarray and communications a lottery.
Every council in Scotland is reeling from the Scottish Government’s cuts which are five times greater than reductions to its own budget. The Western Isles is a microcosm of that problem – but surely one that has already suffered enough.