Scottish election 2021: SNP 'cut 22,000 council jobs', claims pro-union campaign group

Cuts to council budgets over the last parliament are to blame for 22,000 fewer jobs in local authorities across Scotland, a pro-union campaign group has claimed.

Scotland in Union, which campaigns against Scottish independence, analysed the local government settlements for councils for each year since 2015/16 under the SNP and the number of full-time jobs at local authorities.

The group pointed at figures published by the Scottish Government, which show the number of full-time equivalent roles in local government has dropped from 230,000 in 2007 when Alex Salmond was first elected as first minister to 208,000 in the final quarter of last year.

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Nicola Sturgeon's SNP party has been criticised for cutting council funding, leading to fewer jobs.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the SNP has “taken an axe” to local government services.

In 2015/16, local government funding stood at £10.7 billion, which – had it risen with inflation and funding levels remained static – would be equivalent to £12.1bn for the 2021/22 financial year.

However, the SNP’s budget only provides £11.6bn to councils as part of its funding settlement this year, but local authorities will also receive an additional £600 million to “support vital local government services”, the SNP said.

Ms Nash said: “It [the SNP] has short-changed councils of £500m for the year ahead and has overseen the loss of 22,000 jobs.

“This would have a devastating impact at any time, but it will be felt more keenly as the country recovers from Covid.

“Local services are needed more than ever, and politicians should be focused on bringing communities together during the difficult years ahead.

“That’s why the SNP should abandon its bid to divide communities and put our recovery at risk with a second independence referendum.”

Responding, an SNP spokesperson said the party had “protected” local government from austerity cuts originating in Westminster of around 7.8 per cent since 2013/14.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party has previously pledged to scrap council tax in earlier elections going back as far as the first SNP Government under Mr Salmond, only to ditch the plans.

The party’s manifesto states cross-party work to replace the tax – which is based on the value of property in the early 1990s – was underway before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, the party is now committing to a Citizen’s Assembly to consider the future for local government funding alongside a freeze of council tax and removing it entirely for those under the age of 22.

The SNP spokesperson said: “This financial year, Scotland's councils will receive a funding package of £11.6bn. This will include providing councils with an increase in day to day revenue spending of £335.6m.

"In total, councils will receive additional revenue funding of almost £600m to support vital local government services in 2021/22.

"The SNP has protected local authorities from cuts imposed by Westminster to the Scottish Government's resource budget of 7.8 per cent since 2013/14.

"Councils in Scotland have experienced a cash-terms increase of 3.6 per cent between 2013 and 2020, whereas councils in England have suffered at the hands of the Tories with a cash terms reduction in their revenue funding of 14.7 per cent."

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