Joe Cullinane: #ScotLab19 will see the frontline of SNP cuts in Dundee
Writing for The Red Robin, North Ayrshire council leader Joe Cullinane highlights the impact on Dundee and other Scottish councils of the SNP Government's "cuts budget" as delegates arrive for #ScotLab19
Scottish Labour is arriving in Dundee for our conference just as Scotland’s councils set their budgets for the next year, and it’s a fitting City for us to shine the light on the political differences between Labour and the SNP.
In recent weeks Richard Leonard has held the SNP Government to account over their cuts budget, but Nicola Sturgeon’s cries of innocence, claiming that Council budgets are not being cut, rings hollow when SNP Councils like the one in Dundee are slashing Council jobs and services.
The SNP Group on Dundee City Council have cut £3million from education, including cuts to teachers. They are also on a collision course with the Cities trade unions after they pushed through attacks on the terms and conditions of council workers with a £2million “reorganisation”.
You can only conclude that this is either the wilful politics of the SNP in Dundee or Nicola Sturgeon is trying to pull the wool over Scotland's eyes with her cuts budget - and I think I know which one it is.
The reality for Councils is another £230million will be cut from local services this year but the reality for our communities is even worse. We are way beyond the point of a single year impact of cuts, Scotland’s communities are feeling the accumulative impact of a decade of Tory and SNP austerity.
Scottish Labour are rightly holding the SNP to account for taking Tory austerity, multiplying it and dumping it onto Councils (the Scottish Parliament Information Centre’s analysis shows that since 2013, the SNP have cut Council budgets by 6.3% more than the Tories have cut Scottish’s revenue grant), but Richard Leonard is also right to avoid solely focusing on how they’re spending their budget but rather to challenge them on their failure to raise enough revenue to properly fund all public services.
The Nationalists are desperate for Labour to play the game of arguing where cuts should be made to fund Local Government. However, Labour is an anti-austerity party and Richard Leonard is therefore right in refusing to accept the Nationalists position that austerity needs to be felt by some public services in order to fund others.
On its twentieth anniversary, Scotland needs its Parliament and its elected MSP’s to offer the bold, radical policies needed to end a decade of austerity.
The country needs our new social security powers to be used to reduce poverty.
We need progressive leadership to end the failed privatisation of ScotRail and to bring our railways back into public ownership whilst supporting municipal ownership of buses and energy as an alternative to the broken market model.
Our country needs a proper Industrial Strategy for the 21st century, delivering investment in the green economy and also an interventionist approach when private capital seeks to leave workers on the dole as is the case at “The Caley” in Springburn or businesses collapse such as building contractor McGill in Dundee.
The economy needs to be reorganised to work for the many, not the few ending the obscene situation where foreign companies like Kaiam can receive public money to relocate to Scotland only to, within a few years, sack hundreds of workers without pay on Christmas Eve. Instead we need new economic policies, such as the Preston Model of Community Wealth Building, that democratise our economy and stop the extraction of wealth from our communities.
These are the real issues that the people of Scotland need addressing and only the leaderships of Richard Leonard and Jeremy Corbyn offer us any hope on these fronts. So, as the Party arrives in Dundee it’s time for us all to unite and start taking the fight to the Tories and the Nationalists – because people need real change and we all bare a responsibility to get Labour into Government to deliver it.