Councillors’ condemnation of Holyrood budget offer
Councillors have unanimously supported a motion condemning the latest funding offer from the Scottish government.
Council leader Steven Coutts warned that the provisional reduction in core funding had left the council’s ability to provide essential services “under threat”.
Mr Coutts tabled a motion at Wednesday’s meeting of the full council which noted “with disappointment the continuing decline in funding” to the SIC.
His five-part motion also sought to delegate authority to chief executive Maggie Sandison to continue to pursue the figure of £7.9 million which the authority had sought for fair ferry funding.
The council looks set to miss out on its request, as things stand, with the central government offering a total of £10.5 million towards ferry funding to be split between Orkney and Shetland.
Additionally, Mr Coutts’ motion will see Mrs Sandison notify the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) of the council’s stance and write to finance secretary Derek Mackay to advise of the “adverse impact the settlement will have on Shetland”.
The motion found unanimous support in the chamber with a number of councillors reading prepared speeches voicing their dissatisfaction with the budget settlement.
Even SNP councillor Robbie McGregor lent his support to the motion, though he took time to defend his party from the criticism it was receiving in the chamber.
“I, unlike certain other people in this room, am not blinded by dogma and I will be proud to support the leader’s motion”, he said.
Councillor Ryan Thomson, who as chairman of the environment and transport committee has been heavily involved in the drive for fair ferry funding, said that the government’s offer was “entirely unacceptable”.
“I would describe fair funding as full funding, like they have in the Western Isles”, he said.
Mr Thomson called for the authority to continue to push for the £7.9 million they had requested and said that Holyrood’s treatment of councils had been “appaling”.
Councillor Allison Duncan said that Mr Mackay had threatened any council which rejects the offer would end up with an even worse settlement and said that this was “political blackmail”.
He said that this was the second time in recent memory in which Shetland had been the hardest hit council in the country, though this was later disputed by councillor Ian Scott. He said that both Moray and Edinburgh City Council had also portrayed themselves as the worst impacted local authority in the country.
Mr Scott then went on to say that councils should put up a unified front against funding cuts. Unlike others in the chamber he saw Tory austerity as the sole driver behind the cuts saying that the Scottish government’s hands were tied.