Jenny Marra MSP




Deafening Silence from the SNP

29th. January 2016

Running our city council must seem like a thankless task at times.

We all grumble when we have to hand over our council tax every month and when we hit a pothole, icy roads donít get salted or rubbish isnít cleared up quickly enough, the council gets it in the neck.

Thatís the price of responsibility but we should all recognise the important role the authority plays in our lives.

It is one of the biggest employers in our community, itís responsible for our schools, looks after our elderly in their homes, helps with community policing and drives local economic growth.

Cuts to the council budget mean less money to be spent on our schools, our care and our sports and leisure facilities.

We are 10 years into the council tax freeze and councils all over Scotland have just about managed to keep local services going.

However, it seems the latest round of cuts from the Scottish Government is a step too far.

Scotlandís councils face cuts of more than £350 million and Dundeeís share of that is £23m.

Itís a huge bite out of the local economy and it will mean people really do start noticing services they once relied on starting to disappear.

It will impact on our children, our elderly and our most vulnerable, the people who rely on these services to the greatest degree.

So far, the Scottish Government is hiding behind cuts from Westminster as its excuse but that doesnít tell the whole story.

With Scotlandís budget being reduced by 4.7%, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have to explain why Dundeeís budget is being cut by 5.5%.

Why is one of the least well-off parts of Scotland having to bear a bigger brunt of the cuts than other more affluent areas?

Last week, Labourís Kezia Dugdale asked the First Minister if she had any plans to reduce the scale of the damage from council cuts that are set to hit communities like Dundee.

However, Nicola Sturgeon was adamant there was no alternative.

In the negotiations, John Swinney is threatening even deeper cuts if Scotlandís local authorities donít accept his plans.

Council leaders all over Scotland have been railing against the cuts and warning of the disastrous consequences they could have for the most vulnerable.

All over Scotland that is, with the exception of Dundee, where our council leaders seem happy to roll over and accept the cuts imposed on the city by Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney.

With anger growing locally, the council leadership has only now joined leaders in other cities in pushing back against the cuts.

They are late to the party and far too timid in their protests.

I have warned before that the SNP has too much control in Dundee and it is bad for our city.

Not only do we have an SNP council, two of our MSPs are in Nicola Sturgeonís Cabinet and their two MPs in Westminster said, astonishingly, that the SNP cuts have nothing to do with them.

So, when the First Minister gets it wrong and Dundee gets a bad deal, who is going to stick up for the city?

Certainly not the SNP Council, which has been compliant in the cuts and the four MSPs and MPs, who have not uttered a word against the cuts in our city.

The SNP protests against austerity for Scotland but is happy to impose it on Dundee.

Our elected leaders, from council leader Ken Guild and MP Stewart Hosie to MSPs Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick, should be uniting with our citizens in condemning these cuts.

Instead, they are either looking the other way or offering weak resistance.

This lack of leadership is holding us back.

And the council cuts are not the only example.

Just this week, Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron signed a city deal for Aberdeen and together, they will pour more than half a billion pounds into the Granite City.

One of the projects on the slate is the redevelopment of Aberdeen Harbour so the city can take on decommissioning work, creating lots of well-paid skilled jobs.

As regular readers will know, I have been campaigning to bring these jobs to Dundee but Iíve been frustrated by the lack of political backing from local and national government.

We just canít seem to get this project off the ground in Dundee because of a lack of will and investment.

Decommissioning is an industry projected to be worth more than £30 billion over the next two decades.

There is enough work for both Dundee and Aberdeen.

It has already begun and we will see the evidence of that later in 2016.

But the first platform from the Brent field will not be broken up in Scotland Ė it will be in Hartlepool, in the north-east of England, where the local development corporation has made sure the facilities are in place.

Dundee has the skills, the infrastructure and proximity to play a role in this industry but it is literally sailing past us.

Now Aberdeen is stealing a march on us and we face losing out on jobs and opportunities because of political decisions and inaction by the SNP here in Dundee and Edinburgh.

Jenny's article was first published in the Dundee "Courier" link