Sleight of hand

February 14th, 2011

When the Finance Secretary John Swinney laid out his first budget four years ago, Scotland had the lowest unemployment rate in the UK.

This week, as he signed off another budget with the aid of his Con-Dem partners in Holyrood, Scotland now has the highest rate of unemployment in the UK.

At a time when people are concerned about their jobs and the economy, the Scottish Government in Edinburgh had to deliver a budget that addressed growth and employment.

Yet the latest spending priorities have been universally condemned by the academics and cross-party committees of the parliament as failing to address the issue of economic growth.

For Inverclyde, this budget continues the recent trend of disinvestment that threatens to halt the progress we have made as a community.

Inverclyde residents are right to be concerned about cuts to public services after Inverclyde Council was handed an unfair budget settlement.

I have had meetings with students angry that quality, choice and bursary support will be badly impacted by the huge cuts to further education.

I have lobbied with housing groups worried that the new-build and modernisation programmes will be held back by the reduction in the housing budget.

And the cruellest cut of them all, the swingeing 70 per cent reduction to Riverside Inverclyde, jeopardises our efforts to attract businesses and jobs to the area.

This week, John Swinney was forced into partial u-turn by our local campaign to reverse the regeneration cuts and produced a sleight of hand Paul Daniels would have been proud of.

Having slashed £12 million from his regeneration budget, he then re-instated just £6million of it and expected a round of applause.

With the help of the Tories and Lib Dems, the Scottish Government passed their budget but they failed to bring me on board with their cuts agenda.

For the students, tenants, workers and families of Inverclyde that I represent, this was a budget that was bad for Inverclyde.