Resist the cuts agenda (James Mackenzie)

There’s a lot of talk about vulnerability at the moment. According to Shetland Islands Council’s economic development unit’s report, which councillors will take into account this Thursday, rural areas – and indeed the private sector – are vulnerable to the proposed cuts.

I would add that a lot of people who depend on the SIC for social services, and for direct employment in those services, are also vulnerable to the cuts – particularly if community care and children’s services are to be cut by 25 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Some of those service users may already be classed as vulnerable, or disadvantaged, while the employees arguably have a disproportionate number of women and low-paid staff among their number.

Then the EDU pulls its trump card: there is a (magic!) statistical Vulnerability Index, recently published, which shows that: “ … Shetland is deemed to be less vulnerable to potential economic downturn from public sector cuts than most local authority areas in Scotland, and experiences less socio-economic deprivation than many areas. While the effects of moderate to severe public sector cuts are likely to impact on many of the indices used to make these calculations, it is reasonable to expect that Shetland has a certain amount of insulation from the impacts that will be felt in more vulnerable areas.”

The second sentence in this strikes me as being completely lacking in logic. If the very basis of the statistics is adversely impacted by swingeing cuts, how can you be sure that Shetland’s vulnerability will not be similarly affected?

The report goes on to say that Total, the Viking Windfarm, other renewable energy developments, oil and gas decommissioning and broadband expansion will offset the loss to the Shetland economy from these cuts. I can see no guarantee, however, that the people in the front line of the cuts – the people most vulnerable to them – will benefit from these developments, one at least of which is not guaranteed to go ahead itself.

It is more likely that such divisions as already exist in our society will widen, just as is occurring on the UK mainland. Surely we should be working together to be resilient, not to cuts that will have occurred, and whose effects are yet unknown, but to the political agenda that is telling us we must make them at all costs.

James Mackenzie
The Lea,


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