COSLA may not support John Swinney’s funding settlement for Scotland’s local authorities, but I hope he is reassured by the fact that Margret Thatcher would have. The cuts the SNP are inflicting on public services show the same lack of respect for local democracy that she exhibited.
Just as Thatcher did, John Swinney is passing disproportionate cuts on to local authorities at a level which will have a direct impact on key public services like social care and education. Imagine the fuss the SNP would create if the UK Government treated Holyrood in the same way?
In a move which also mirrors the “rate capping” Thatcher so loved, the SNP is again forcing its Council Tax Freeze on local authorities. This comes despite clear and unequivocal evidence from Naomi Eisenstadt, the SNP Government’s poverty advisor, that the Council Tax Freeze disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Scots and is funded by cutting the public services needed by the poorest in society. Imagine the fuss the SNP would create if the UK Government forced such a regressive measure on Holyrood?
Of course, an individual local authority could decide to raise council tax to invest in reducing the attainment cap or improving social care. However, similar to the “grant penalties” Thatcher imposed against councils, Swinney has made it clear that any Local Authority which dares raise council tax to fund public services will be heavily fined. Imagine the fuss the SNP would create if the UK Government treated Holyrood in the same way?
There is one difference between Thatcher and Swinney. Thatcher was unsympathetic to those who relied heavily on local public services as she knew they were unlikely to vote for her. The SNP, on the other hand, take these votes for granted in their effort to gain support for their independence nirvana amongst middle-class Scots.
As ever, the constitution must come before supporting the vulnerable in society.