Politicians lock horns over budget

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has attacked his unionist political opponents for 'failing' '“ as he sees it '“ to support a Scottish Government budget that will bring important investment to the area.

He said the Budget includes more funding for Forth Valley College and the continuation of electrification on local railways between Falkirk Grahamston, Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa.

But he said his three political opponents, including Conservative MSP Alison Harris, were guilty of “opposition for opposition’s sake”.

Mr MacDonald said: “This Scottish Government budget provides a strong funding deal for Falkirk district, giving spending commitments in the NHS, education, infrastructure, environment and the economy.

“For the opposition parties, with the exception of the Greens, to vote against all of this was deeply disappointing and against the best interests of our communities.”

He added: “Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems should think again before choosing to rob the Falkirk district of these vital services in a narrow-minded campaign designed to achieve nothing more than embarrassing the SNP Scottish Government.

“This budget is too important for our communities to allow that to happen.”

The Budget was only passed with the support of the Scottish Green Party which helped secure a decrease in the £10 million cut Falkirk Council’s budget was facing.

The amount cut will now be around £6 million with the extra money to be used for frontline services such as schools and social care.

Budget cuts in Falkirk have resulted in a reduction in the numbers of support for learning staff in schools, the reduction in support for youth employment services and changing the collection of residual household waste from three weekly to four-weekly.

Chris Marsh, prospective Scottish Green Party candidate for Carse Kinnaird and Tryst ward in the upcoming local election, said: “Greens stand firmly with Falkirk communities and public sector workers affected by cuts and closures, and these new funds secured by Green MSPs mean we can start to repair the damage done by years of underfunding and lack of local flexibility.

“This is the biggest budget concession in Holyrood’s history. Other parties effectively ruled themselves out of constructive dialogue.

“My Green colleagues in Parliament have achieved more in a single budget than the Labour Party has in a decade of opposition. This is, however, only the start of a journey on restoring financial powers at local level.”

Falkirk Council is due to make decisions on what this year’s budget will spent on and is expected to follow other local authorities in raising council tax to boost finances to protect frontline services.

Council Leader Craig Martin said: “When your boss says he is cutting your wage by £100, you kick up a fuss then a few months later says it will only be a £40 cut, do you thank him for it?

“That is what it is like here, rather than a £10 million cut to the council’s grant it is going to be £6 million cut.

“Shockingly, back in December when the council was told it was a £10 million cut, Falkirk SNP wanted the people of Falkirk to write a letter thanking their SNP government for the cut.

“Unsurprisingly I, along with Labour colleagues and trade unions fought rather than thanked them.”

Mr Martin added: “Even with the £6 million cut, I promise to do everything in my power to minimise any cuts to vital frontline services and protect the people of Falkirk. I hope to announce these details in the coming days.”