Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, today tackled the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, over Orkney's "ongoing underfunding" under the Scottish Government’s local authority funding formula.
Speaking during Finance and Economy Questions this afternoon, Mr McArthur highlighted that Orkney's recent growth in population has only worsened the disparity between the three main island authorities in terms of funding. He advised the DFM that Orkney receives £367 per head less than Shetland and almost £700 less than the Western Isles.
Mr McArthur went onto criticise the so-called 'floor mechanism' in the Scottish Budget which saw Orkney pay in £1.3m at the same time as Shetland and Western Isles gained almost £5m and £18m retrospectively.
Orkney's MSP also challenged Mr Swinney to say whether he believed it would represent a "fair deal" for Scotland to be treated this way if the same mechanism was used to distribute funding across the UK. In response, Mr Swinney said he would reflect on Orkney's funding arrangements ahead of the next Scottish Budget.
Responding afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"The acute underfunding of Orkney Islands Council has long been a source of concern. It is made worse, however, as Orkney’s population has increased markedly over recent years in comparison to the other island authorities.
"The disparity in funding per head of population simply cannot be excused, even if it can be explained. The cost of this disparity is more severe cuts to public services in Orkney.
"After years of being short-changed, it is clear the budget mechanisms are stacked against Orkney. Scottish Ministers must now look at practical ways to address this inherent unfairness and put all island authorities on a more level playing field."