Budget short changes islands and local councils, says McArthur

Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has voiced fears that the Scottish Government’s draft budget will see island communities ‘short changed’, with serious consequences for local services.

Despite a record block grant, the 2022-23 Scottish Budget announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Economy yesterday includes a £3.1m reduction in funding support for ferry services and a £2.2m cut in funding for islands.

There are also wider concerns about an overall squeeze on local authority budgets, estimated at around £344m, which looks set to leave Councils, including OIC, facing a stark choice between significant increases in Council Tax or painful cuts to local services.

Commenting on the Budget, Mr McArthur said:

"The implications of this year's Budget will only become clear over the coming weeks as more detail emerges.  However, it is already clear from the Finance Secretary’s statement to parliament that this is a budget that short changes island communities.

"Quite what a £3.1m cut in ferry funding will mean in practice remains to be seen, but it can hardly be good news for places like Orkney.  Having increased funding immediately ahead of the last election, it would surely be stretching cynicism too far for the SNP government now to renege on those commitments.

"More generally, the sharp squeeze on Council budgets is a concern not just here in Orkney but across the country.  Ministers have continued to strip powers away from local authorities, with further plans to do the same in relation to social care, but are happy to leave Councils carrying the can for cuts to local services.  That shows a blatant lack of respect for local democracy and accountability.

"Elsewhere, the budget falls short in key areas such as tackling long covid, building back social care and fighting climate change.

"As Scotland continues to battle the effects of a pandemic, Brexit and a climate emergency, it needs a government focussed on recovery.  Instead, we see funding and priority given to the pursuit of another divisive referendum on independence."

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