Scottish budget “timid, not transformative”: Greens respond to release of the year’s financial agenda

The Scottish budget has been described as “timid, not transformative” by the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.

Responding to yesterday’s budget speech, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, said: “The finance minister must change tack if she wishes to secure our support for her budget.”

Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie MSP (Credit:Twitter.com)

The Scottish National Party has relied on the support of the Scottish Greens to pass the budget in the last few years.

Within the 2020-21 Scottish Budget the SNP announced a package of funding to accelerate Scotland’s transition to a net-zero economy, including £1.8 billion of investment in low carbon infrastructure which will help reduce emissions.

Speaking in the chamber yesterday, Harvie criticised the budget.

“I can find no evidence of a shift away from the damaging traffic inducing projects that the government has been supporting up until now,” he said.

Yesterday’s budget speech comes after the release of the government’s public engagement programme about climate change ‘Big Climate Conversation’, which saw the Scottish Greens call for the SNP to start “listening to the public.”

Scottish Green environment spokesperson, Mark Russell, said:
“The Scottish Government need to take on board what we have been telling them. Building a world call, affordable public transform system that busts congestion has to be the top goal.”

SNP MSP, Kate Forbes, during the question and answer session in the chamber yesterday, said that she is “willing to be very constructive. My door is open and I’m willing to listen to all parties.”

Kate Forbes MSP
(credit: Twitter.com)

In a statement by the Scottish Green’s, the party said:

“Scottish Greens have made a number of constructive proposals, which would protect local services and begin to tackle the climate crisis, unfortunately the Scottish Government have so far failed to engage in constructive negations to deliver the transformative change required.”

The Budget will also see a new £120 million heat transition deal and a total investment of £151 million in energy efficiency.
In total, £461.8m will be spent on the environment, climate change and land reform – an increase from £426.6m.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, welcomed the budget:

“Scotland has committed to reaching Net Zero emissions by 2045, five years earlier than the UK as a whole.”

In November, Glasgow will play host to COP26, The United Nations Climate Change Conference.

 

Revealed: the cleaning crisis in Edinburgh schools

cleaning schools photo.png

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A number of schools in Edinburgh have such poor levels of cleaning that it is “compromising health and safety standards”.

Unite, the trade union representing cleaners, have taken testimony from a number of members who tell of cleaners being shipped from school to school in the space of only one afternoon, potentially jeopardising standards.

This news comes on the day that council leaders meet to discuss how best to cut £33 million from the council budget.

Following Edinburgh city councils budget cut of an estimated £250 million in the last five years, cleaners have reported a shocking neglect of both staff and resources, forcing a supervisor to contact her union.

It has been noted that one individual employed by a major high school in Edinburgh was forced to visit several other community buildings to ensure the school did not run out of essential materials.

In another case, prior to complaints regarding a lack of cleaning materials, teachers were seen bringing in baby wipes to work to ensure the tables were clean for students to work on.

Mary Alexander, Unite’s Deputy Scottish Secretary, has labelled the situation as “ridiculous”.

She said: “Unite has heard numerous stories from cleaners across the city highlighting the lack of cleaning materials, and staff due to council cuts. Cleaners are in some instances being transported around schools to address the lack of provisions. The situation is compromising health and safety standards”.

It is estimated the Edinburgh City Council will face at least £41 million worth of cuts in the next year as well as a further £106 million in the following three years.

Analysis: Edinburgh Council Budget Plans for 2018/19

Music tuition and public toilets may face the axe.

Image: Ross Cowper-Fraser

Bruntsfield Primary may have its music tuition funding halved

The City of Edinburgh Council has been tasked with the difficult job of trying to save £28 million in the 2018/19 budget.

Over the past week a series of articles have been released by Edinburgh publications detailing potential plans for how the council will handle the budget.

Documents shown to Ian Swanson at the Edinburgh Evening News have revealed controversial proposals such as cutting funding in schools, music tuition and public libraries.

Edinburgh Council have dismissed the Evening News’ findings, saying that there is a good chance nothing will come from them.

Even still, as Ian Swanson discussed today, does the public not have the right to know ‘where the axe may fall?’

Finance Convener Alasdair Rankin believes that the public shouldn’t be concerned with cuts that may not happen, but perhaps transparency is the best policy when discussing the lives of Edinburgh’s citizens.

The council are currently running a scheme to canvas opinion on how to handle the budget, so if they are involving the public to some degree, perhaps the public should know more about what is being considered.

Schools

Last year, in another leak to the Evening News, it was revealed that there were proposals to close the world renowned Edinburgh School of Music. When this leak was revealed, a campaign was launched to save the music school, which was supported by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The threat was lifted, and the council have made clear that the school will not be affected by the proposal to halve the budget for music education in Edinburgh.

The options the council could consider for the proposed cut is to either halve the number of full-time music teachers, potentially reducing the amount of pupils learning instruments from around 5084 to 2542, or charging pupils for lessons, with the exemption of those studying for SQA exams and those who receive free school meals.

In an opinion piece in the Edinburgh Evening News, Ex-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has heavily criticised the proposal to cut music education, saying that “cuts to schools must be a red line.”

Scottish schools, and Edinburgh schools in particular, have been facing difficulties in acquiring staff, as well as attainment in national exams now being lower than it was with standard grades.

With the proposed closure of music school last year, and the proposed cuts this year, it appears that music tuition is on the bottom of the list of education services in Edinburgh.

Public Toilets

Public toilets are also under threat of closures, with the council hoping to save £250,000.

Councillor Rankin has stated that at this stage, the proposal has only been drawn up by council officials and has not been approved by the SNP-Labour administration.

The council will be hoping to balance the closures through their Community Toilet Scheme, in which the council pays business owners £500 a year to allow customers to use their toilets without having to make a purchase. The scheme was launched in 2014 but currently only nine businesses are signed up.

After speaking to a few businesses in Bruntsfield, it became apparent that not enough know about the Community Toilet Scheme, although they all thought it was a good idea.

Image: Ross Cowper-Fraser

Montpeliers in Bruntsfield is one of the establishments which may take advantage of the Community Toilet Scheme

 

This proposal has been met with criticism, due to public toilets being an essential part of any city, especially for those with conditions meaning they need to go to the toilet more frequently, as well as young children.

As of now, there is no way of knowing how effective a replacement the Toilet Scheme could be for public toilets, it all depends on how strong an incentive the £500 a year is for business owners.

Councillor Rankin has said to the Edinburgh Evening News that closing the toilets may not be the final solution, and they might end up with an amended version of what the officers are suggesting.

Adam, Bar Supervisor of Montpeliers in Bruntsfield: “I haven’t heard of [The Community Toilet Scheme] before, but it sounds a good idea, and I’d definitely go for it. We have a lot of people coming in and using the toilet anyway, we even have homeless people coming in and cleaning themselves in the sink. I don’t know if [getting rid of public toilets] would bring in more people, though.”

Marco, Owner of Tempo Perso in Bruntsfield: “We have over ten people a day coming in asking to use the toilet. I haven’t heard of it before but if I turn away people I don’t want, I would sign up.”

Tourist Tax

The tax, which has been voted through by Edinburgh council and is facing consultation today, hopes to generate £11 million a year.

It is unknown if the tourist tax will help towards the budget for 2018/19.

It has been described by Councillor Ian White, the leader of the Tory group as “a dog’s breakfast of a policy [that] should be ditched at this point.”

Council leader Adam McVey told the Scotsman that the charge would “help to fund the things we pay for to make Edinburgh such a vibrant city”.

He said: “It would be an understatement to say this has been a long time coming. This goes to the heart of the kind of city we want to be.”

If perhaps some of an approved tourist tax would go towards helping the council’s budget, it wouldn’t have to consider cutting services such as music tuition and public toilets.

The writer’s comment;

The City of Edinburgh Council are clearly in a difficult position. One on side, they need to save a great deal of money, and no matter what they cut, there will be a backlash. On the other, they should be careful in their consideration of making more cuts to schools, as this goes against Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘defining mission’ to raise attainment in Scottish classrooms. The Edinburgh Evening News have put even more pressure on the council by releasing these potential plans, which have already received backlash from the public. Nothing is official about the plans, but as Ian Swanson said, the public do have the right to know what may happen to their city.

By Liam Mackay

 

 

Comment: The Tories are supporting the DUP’s agenda not Northern Ireland’s Peace Process

The DUP have received a £410 million allocation for Northern Ireland Assembly budget from the Conservative Party, despite Stormont not sat since snap local elections in March 2017.

Stormont’s debates chambers have been silent for over 12 months, the DUP are a party not in power at home but solely making decisions for Northern Ireland. It adds to a growing list of decisions and Brexit stance shifts by Theresa May’s Government, pointing to a willingness to do whatever necessary to keep the DUP content and themselves in power.

Peace Bridge: Derry. Credit: Aoibhinn O’Doherty

A hard border will be disastrous for Northern Ireland, The European Union is doing everything it can to stop a disintegration of the peace progress in Brexit negotiations whilst Britain does everything in its’ power to keep the DUP’s support. Allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and customs union, having the hard border along the Irish sea is a huge conceit by the EU. It shows a desire to show leniency on Britain’s hard stance for the better of peace in Ireland. Theresa May and the rightwing press in Britain are outraged by Europe’s “demands,” misunderstanding who is really unrealistically demanding.

The disadvantages of a border are clear; trade, immigration and economic support will be brought to a standstill in Northern Ireland. Derry sits along the border, NI’s second city, every day hundreds commute to and from the city across the border. An economic blackspot, for decades it has benefited from European money and incentives for cross-community projects, local business, start-ups and trade. A ‘Peace Bridge’ links the still-segregated sides of Derry’s Foyle river, paid for and devised by the EU.

The Foyle Constituency voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, the advantages of having an elected member in the EU was clear to Foyle’s constituents, due to the work of the cities’ John Hume in spreading Europe’s peaceful philosophy.

It was on the morning of June’s General Election’s result and formation of a coalition government with the DUP, Hume came to mind. It was Hume’s fight for civil rights and ultimate vision of peace throughout the darkest days of the Troubles that saw an end to the bloodshed. The Good Friday Agreement and the design of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Assembly was the result of secret negotiations between Sinn Fein, The DUP, Westminster and the Dáil. Forging relationships between Nationalism and Loyalism, Britain and Ireland, Hume’s lifelong commitment to equality and peace seen him receive the Noble Peace Prize in 1998.

It was not without outside support that peace was achieved. Hume was an MEP and sat in the EU’s Strasbourg Parliament. He addressed the Parliament following his Noble award, it was the speech I came across on the morning of June 26.

“The European Union is the best example in the history of the world of conflict resolution. The philosophy of the European Union and the peace of Europe is the philosophy of our [Good Friday] agreement.” Hume bellowed.

In no uncertain terms, Hume owes peace to Europe, every meticulous detail of NI’s new government was based on what followed the ashes and rubble of the Second World War. Hume understood The European Union and the philosophy it represented, respect for difference and sitting down together to work toward a common goal. 

With the threat of a no deal Brexit and a hard border, Theresa May is holding Northern Ireland’s peace process to ransom. The Good Friday Agreement brought an end to hundreds of years of intolerance to religion and culture. Britain, along with the Irish Republic, Europe and the two diametrically opposed parties of Republicanism and Unionism agreed to an equal footing. Britain accepted a responsibility to acknowledge and work with Nationalism in Ireland, for the first time Unionism had an opposition.

With the formation of a coalition with the DUP in June, Theresa May compromised Britain’s promise to Northern Ireland and have put peace in jeopardy. As we edge closer and closer to leaving Europe, with negotiations in existence but not progressing, it is becoming clear that May and her negotiator Michel Barnier are far more interested in supporting the DUP and its’ opposition to the North of Ireland remaining in the customs union and single market. It seems obvious to me, as it does Europe’s negotiators, the Conservatives are only intent on keeping their minority government in power through the DUP and not honouring their commitment to peace in Ireland.   

UK factories enjoy best week for new orders since 1988

British factories received more orders this month than any other in the last three decades, according to an industry survey.

The report from the Confederation of British industry adds to growing evidence that the fall in the value of the pound since last years Brexit vote is helping manufacturers.

Best week for UK factories in 29 years. Source: Google

The CBI’s monthly industry health check showed massive growth in both total and export orders, resulting in higher factory output as firms expect the trend to continue over the next three months.

While manufacturing only makes up 10% of the UK economy, the strength of the CBI report will increase the chances of growth picking up after a slow year so far.

Firms are still dealing with an increase in costs but the CBI said these were improving since the 15% drop in the value of sterling earlier this year pushed up the price of imported materials and fuel.

Anna Leach, the CBIs’ head of economic intelligence, said: “UK manufacturers are once more performing strongly as global growth and the lower level of sterling continue to support demand.

“Output growth has picked up again, and export order books match the highest in more than 20 years.”

“Nonetheless, uncertainty continues to hold back investment and cost pressures remain strong.”

The news comes ahead of tomorrow’s chancellor’s budget and will provide a much needed boost to his position after his widely criticised first budget.

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15% drop in British Pound. Source: Google


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