11th February 2013
As it is often said, the true test of a politician is not the decisions they make in the good times, but how they prioritise spending in the bad times.
Last week, the SNP’s finance secretary John Swinney failed that test, as he presented his budget to parliament.
To the dismay of students and college staff, who were demanding the full restoration of a £34 million cut to our colleges, Mr Swinney was only prepared to put £10 million back, leaving a £24 million shortfall.
This news, to everyone’s astonishment, was met by the cheering of SNP backbenchers; a sight that college students will not easily forget.
For his next trick, Mr Swinney used sleight of hand to raise the global sum available to housing, while at the same time presiding over a cut to the local housing grant, which will ensure a reduction in house building here in Inverclyde where we already have a housing waiting list of almost 7,000.
This is not good news for families looking for a home, or indeed, those who already have a home but who are living in poor accommodation.
It’s also bad news for all those construction workers who have witnessed day by day their industry going into decline.
There is no doubt that the finance secretary faces difficult choices due to the tough economic climate.
But with a clear SNP majority he can no longer pass the buck and simply blame the UK government for the troubles our country faces.
He needs to take responsibility and use the finances and powers he has at his disposal to boost the economy, reduce youth unemployment and help families struggling to find a suitable home.