Thank you for your report in today’s Shetland Times on Our Islands Our Future (OIOF)’s sub-glacial progress on devolution.
Let’s hope the SNP wins the election, otherwise all bets are off. And let’s hope there’s another independence referendum, otherwise all bets will still be off and this unique opportunity in Shetland’s history will have been squandered.
Three years and 12 meetings on and OIOF will now see a third electoral contest without a single tangible gain – a Holyrood master class in “kicking the can ever further down the road”.
And what’s all this about new ferries? I thought the SIC was talking to the Scottish government about fixed road links (tunnels)? Never mind, as long as the council can “just about afford the revenue costs of ferries” who needs tunnels?
How Gary Robinson can come out singing the praises of this “excellent opportunity to put the islands’ case to ministers over a number of years”, of which he “supposes we are reaching a point where he would like to see some of this feeding into the islands bill and into manifestos for the May election”, after 12 meetings and this year’s five per cent SIC funding cut is beyond me.
OIOF has failed. Shetland needs a new strategy.
As for SNP local government minister Marco Biagi trying to spin a yarn about that miserly funding cut:
“South of the border, over three years, they cut 27 per cent off of local government budgets,” Biagi said, “and as a result of the Barnett formula, every time the UK government cuts funding in England there’s a corresponding cut in funding to Scotland.”
I’m sorry, previous years figures are irrelevant; he was asked about THIS YEAR!
And “this year”, in flat cash terms, the Scottish government received a small increase (from £30,141 million to £30.286 million). Yet Scottish councils’ funding allocation has been cut by over one per cent overall and Shetland’s, by 5.1 per cent (or 4.4 per cent, if you prefer Mr Biagi’s version).
He continued: “We’ve been able to protect local authorities in Scotland … and they’re in a challenging but, I would say, fair settlement position at this point that is just a one per cent reduction in overall gross expenditure.”
Really? By Mr Biagi’s own admission, the SIC has this year suffered “a 4.4 per cent reduction in overall gross expenditure” while the Scottish government has enjoyed a small increase. If that’s “protecting” them I wouldn’t like to witness an attack.
At the end of the day, in Mr Biagi’s own words, Shetland has suffered a “4.4 per cent reduction in overall gross expenditure” while the Scottish government has enjoyed a £145 million increase and there is no way he or Derek Mackay can spin their way out of that.
That’s the “Tartan Tories” for you – “Cut, cut, cut!”
Chairman, Wir Shetland