‘Free’ public services face threat from cuts

NHS services could be under threat according to the CPPR. Picture: Getty
NHS services could be under threat according to the CPPR. Picture: Getty
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A “SECOND wave” of cuts will hit Scottish public services over the coming five years, throwing further question marks over the affordability of popular policies, such as “free” public services, a protected NHS and the council tax freeze, according to a leading think-tank.

A report by the Centre forPublic Policy and the Regions today says the deep reductions in spending to the public-­sector network are half-way through their course, with a further £3 billion slice still to be slashed from the £28bn budget by 2018.

By the end of that year, the CPPR predicts that one pound in every five spent by Edinburgh in 2009 – when spending reached its peak – will have disappeared.

It warns that if the SNP government decides to carry on with policies such as the pro­tection of NHS spending and payment for the tuition costs of students, it will have “very serious implications” for other parts of the public sector.

The report says it is “likely” that Scotland will have to follow Ireland in pushing through “increased charges” for services and “greater targeting” of benefits.

But it concludes that the likelihood of a proper debate in Scotland over the correct path to be taken is unlikely to be heard, as politicians jostle for victory in the referendum in 2014 and the general election in 2015.

The warning about future austerity cuts within the UK set- up will chime with the message of the pro-independence campaign, which has warned about welfare and service cuts if Scots vote No in 2014.

A spokesperson for finance secretary John Swinney said: “With the CPPR confirming that there are as many cuts to come from Westminster as we have already faced, the only clear alternative for people in Scotland is to ensure that their Scottish Parliament has the powers to set our own budgets, benefit from our own resources and invest in our public services with a vote for independence.”

However, a report by the SNP’s Fiscal Commission spelled out this week that there might be no escaping the cuts.