“Thank you, Provost.
I am a relatively new councillor, so I have deliberately taken a lot of time to think over the issues raised by this budget. I have probably spent more time thinking than most of you because this is my first budget meeting.
No matter how long I ponder these issues, the cause of recent difficulties is clear.
Some people say that these challenges are due to Swinney’s cuts. But, I would say to those people – look at our structure of governance.
With London controlling the purse strings, these cuts are a direct result of Tory austerity being imposed on Scotland by Westminster.
The budget passed by the Scottish Parliament yesterday protects the most vulnerable people in society from the UK Government’s ideologically driven austerity agenda.
It has ensured investment of £38 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund.
Invested up to £343 million into the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
Committed £35 million to fully mitigate the bedroom tax.
And it has set record level investment into our National Health Service.
It is meaningful and deliverable budget given the constraints imposed by the Tories in Westminster.
Despite the claims that the UK Government has increased capital spending, Scotland’s capital budget in 2019-20 will be £600 million (17%) lower than it was in 2010-11.
And the figures announced on 25th November for the 2015 Spending Review period will see the Scottish Fiscal DEL budget fall by 4.2% in real terms between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
The common denominator is the Tories. It is the Tories fiscal fetish with austerity, their uncaring, uncompromising way of viewing the world through pound signs rather than seeing the people impacted by their policies – this is the fundamental issue in play.
But the Labour Party have been unable to get themselves out of the referendum mind-set. Sharing a platform with the Tories, having to defend their indefensible policies, Labour haven’t changed the record.
Yesterday we saw Labour vote with the Tories against the SNP’s budget. Over the last few months, the only line from the Labour Party has been to try to apportion the blame for Tory austerity on the SNP. And in light of Kezia Dugdale stating that the Labour Party will come second in the Holyrood election, we can only conclude that the policies they are trumpeting are entirely unworkable and they have absolutely no intention of delivering them.
The Labour Party have been blinded by their alliance with the Tories, and this has meant that we have missed a huge opportunity in Scotland to put forward a cross-party alternative to Tory austerity.
The SNP is proud to be a social democratic party, the Labour Party at least used to be the same.
I call on the Labour Party to acknowledge that the root of the problem is Tory austerity from Westminster.
Let us work together to demonstrate Scotland’s social democratic consensus. Let us demonstrate that there is another way to rebuild our economy, and at the same time strengthen our communities and create a better nation for us all.