Scottish Government 'trying to shift blame' on public sector pay amid strike threat

The SNP has come under fire for trying to “shift the blame” on public sector pay as strike action in councils looms.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has requested urgent talks with the UK Government over providing additional funding, and warned the Scottish Government may be unable to fund rises without cuts to services.

It comes as unions warned waste will pile up in Scotland and schools will shut later this summer unless Cosla, the council umbrella body, table a “significantly” improved pay offer for local government staff.

Pay settlements for council workers - apart from teachers - are the responsibility of Cosla and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC). Further talks are due to take place between Cosla and the joint unions today.

Rubbish could be left to rot in the street and schools shut by mass council strikes.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

In the letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, Mr Swinney outlines concerns that last year’s UK Spending Review, which determined the majority of the current Scottish Budget, “did not take into account the level of pay increase recently proposed by the independent pay review bodies”. Mr Swinney also warned the UK Spending Review did not consider the wider effects of rising inflation.

But the Scottish Tories lashed out at the SNP for blaming the UK Government.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow finance and economy secretary, said: "This is a brass-necked attempt to blame the UK Treasury for the SNP's failure to fund public services in Scotland.

"But the real story is that the nationalists have created a £3.5 billion black hole in their finances according to the IFS, and have already cut frontline services to the bone.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

"They've got some nerve trying to shift the blame elsewhere — council workers are about to strike because the SNP left local authorities so cash-strapped they can't improve pay.

"That's despite massive additional support from the UK Government, including the largest block grant from Westminster in the history of devolution."

Scottish Labour, meanwhile, criticised both governments for “blaming one another” over their “collective failures” following Mr Swinney’s letter.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said there is not a “meaningful conversation” on the “failing” economic growth from the SNP while the Conservatives shows a “disinterest” in raising living standards.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour finance spokesperson said: "As the cost-of-living crisis continues to leave Scots facing impossible choices it isn't acceptable for Scotland's two governments to simply try and blame one another for their collective failures.

"It is the SNP who have for almost 15 years failed to value public sector workers or prioritise fair pay deals for them, all while the Tories have presided over a massive transfer of wealth to top earners.

"To fix this we need an economy that is growing and relentlessly focused on giving everyone a chance to succeed. Neither the SNP or the Tories are willing or able to use the powers at Holyrood or Westminster to do that."

Council workers in the GMB, Unite and Unison across a number of councils in Scotland are expected to strike over a 2 per cent pay increase offered to them by Cosla.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Unite representative Eddie Cassidy said union members could not afford to accept the "measly offer" and council workers have no alternative than to take "all-out" strike action.

Action in refuse and waste services is expected to begin in mid-August, while strikes specifically impacting on schools is expected to begin in early September.

In the letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, Mr Swinney outlines concerns that last year’s UK Spending Review, which determined the majority of the current Scottish Budget, “did not take into account the level of pay increase recently proposed by the independent pay review bodies”.

Mr Swinney also warned the UK Spending Review did not consider the wider effects of rising inflation.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Read More

Read More
SNP accused of 'passing the buck' as strike action in education and waste collec...

In the letter, Mr Swinney, who is taking on the responsibility for the finance and economy portfolio whilst Kate Forbes is on maternity leave, raises concerns over UK funding not ‘meeting the needs of additional costs’.

On July 15, the finance ministers for the three devolved governments wrote to the Chancellor outlining economic areas of concern ahead of the forthcoming UK Budget.

The deputy first minister writes: "There is one urgent issue I would wish to take the opportunity to raise given its importance to the delivery of public services in Scotland. Further to the joint letter from devolved administration finance ministers to you on 15 July, and in light of the UK Government’s subsequent announcements regarding public sector pay, I am concerned that no associated funding is being provided to meet these additional costs.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

"Last year’s UK Spending Review, which as you know determines the majority of the Scottish Budget, did not take account of the levels of pay uplift now proposed or indeed the wider effects of inflation. The associated reduction in spending power across public-sector budgets is deeply worrying for our public services and our capacity to respond to the cost of living crisis, which will undoubtedly bring renewed challenges through the coming autumn and winter period. Given our fixed budgets, our restricted borrowing powers and the inability to change tax policy in year, the lack of additional funding for public sector pay deals via the Barnett Formula means the Scottish Government could only replicate these pay deals for public workers in Scotland with deep cuts to public services.

"I would urge you to consider appropriate funding for public sector pay, and would welcome early discussions with you on this matter.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We have provided the Scottish Government with a record £41 billion per year for the next three years, the highest spending review settlement since devolution.

“As a result, the Scottish Government is receiving around £126 per person for every £100 per person of equivalent UK Government spending in England over the next three years.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

“We’re also helping to tackle the rising cost of living, protecting eight million of the most vulnerable families with direct payments of £1,200 this year, and providing additional payments to pensioners and disabled people.”

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.