Socialist Worker

SNP slams ‘crude’ cuts—and slashes council jobs

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2441

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (Pic: Scottish Government/flickr)


Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon called on the Labour Party to abandon austerity in a speech in London last week.

She also attacked the Tory government’s “crude cuts”. 

The speech was about positioning the SNP for the expected horse-trading to form the next Westminster government.  

Both Labour and the Tories are predicted to fall short of winning a clear majority of seats in May’s general election.

Polls consistently show the SNP on course to win a clear majority of seats in Scotland. The party continues to enjoy a huge surge in support since last year’s independence referendum.

Sturgeon was cultivating its anti-austerity image.

Yet the SNP’s Edinburgh and Dundee city councillors don’t seem to be on message. 

With full control in Dundee and in coalition with Labour in Edinburgh, they rammed through huge cuts last week. 

The SNP hopes to pin the blame on the Tories or on Labour, whose leader Ed Miliband is less popular among Scots than David Cameron. 

Closure

In Dundee the SNP-led council is set to cut more than £33 million in the next few years.

The cuts include the closure of a local high school and cuts to pupil support and early years workers. Social care and youth services are also threatened.

In Edinburgh councillors voted for £67 million cuts over three years. This includes increased charges for home care and care homes, raising council house rents, big cuts in grants to the voluntary sector and the loss of 1,200 jobs. 

This shows that a vote for the SNP is not a vote against austerity. The Unison union called a lunchtime protests in Dundee. 

Protesting SNP/Labour coalition cuts in Edinburgh last week

Protesting SNP/Labour coalition cuts in Edinburgh last week (Pic: Josh Brown)

And more than 100 people protested in Edinburgh as tenants’ and anti-cuts groups joined trade unionists from the Unison, Unite and EIS unions.

Sturgeon made clear in her London speech that the SNP “believe that debt and the deficit should be reduced” but just “more gradually” than the Tories or Labour propose.

Instead of defending crucial jobs and services the SNP had a £444 million underspend last year—some 40,000 local government jobs have gone under its watch. 

Services have been slashed so bare that there is now no meat left on the bone. 

The fight to build a real left alternative is more crucial in Scotland than ever. It must start now, not at the Scottish elections in 2016. 

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is standing candidates to provide a voice to all those who want to reject austerity.

 

Teacher numbers decline

A row erupted earlier this month between the Scottish government and local councils. 

Deputy first minister John Swinney blamed councils for breaking an SNP pledge to protect teacher to student ratios. Swinney told councils to stop the decline in teacher numbers or face funding cuts. 

The Scottish councils’ umbrella body, Cosla, demands the “flexibility” to cut education budgets. It is threatening legal action against the SNP government.

Cosla justified its stance saying that there is no link between the number of teachers employed in schools and education standards.

The EIS teaching union hit back at Cosla’s “spurious defence of their desire to slash teacher numbers”.

Council education spending has fallen 5 percent in real terms between 2010/11 and 2012/13 and over 4,000 teachers have gone under the SNP. Teacher to pupil ratios were protected in a 2011 deal that cut teachers’ pay and £60 million of education funding. 

The SNP is under more pressure now because it failed to do anything about a further £15 million of cuts in two of the three years that followed.

Teachers are furious about increasing workloads as a result of cuts. That anger cannot be contained forever and the EIS union leadership knows it.


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