Editorial: Alternative ideas that would have made a real difference

Rhoda Grant MSP returns to insideMoray this morning with her views on recent events at Holyrood and here in Moray….

Rhoda Grant MSP

FOR MANY OF US, January and February are times for reviewing our finances and making decisions about our spending plans for the forthcoming year.

It is the same for your MSPs, as the next stage of the budget process gets under way.

The draft budget was originally announced back in December and so we have had some time to consider our response. The stance that the Scottish Labour Party is quite clear. We will not support a budget that results in more services cuts which devastate our communities.

Local government is the prime providers of services to individuals and communities. Cuts to councils directly affect the quality of public services. Since the SNP formed their first government in 2011, local government has had to endure £1.4billion of cuts. Another £170m worth of cuts in this budget is totally unacceptable.

For most of us talking in terms of millions, or billions, of pounds is fairly meaningless. I have no idea what a million pounds looks like and I don’t imagine many of you do, either. Much better to put it all into human terms.

Since 2011, because of government cuts, we have lost thousands of local council jobs – from department heads to home helps. Since the SNP came to power there are 4,000 fewer teachers and 1,000 fewer support staff in our schools. Visits by home helps to our elderly have been cut to the bare minimum and charges for all sorts of services increased, community care facilities closed and child services reduced.

The state of our roads is deplorable with only essential maintenance being carried out. To bring these back to a pre-2011 state will take many years and a huge amount of money. Our buildings and other facilities, including schools, also need attention

This is why Scottish Labour has put forward an alternative plan. A plan that is based on what is the right; not just popular.

We put forward a progressive case to introduce a 50p tax on those earning over £150,000 and to add a penny to income tax to pay for public services.

Although our plan would make around £600 million available for public services, no one would pay a penny more in tax if they earn less than £21,000. The majority of us would only pay an extra £1 a week. those earning more £150,000 a year – the top 1% – would pay a top rate of 50% on earnings over that amount

It is only right that the those who can afford it contribute a little more, to benefit the whole of our society.

The Scottish Parliament now has the extra powers it needs to halt austerity. What it lacks is a government prepared to use them. Government is about making the right choices – not just ones that will make you popular. The Scottish Government have decried the UK for imposing austerity but, now that they have powers to stop it, they simply continue the Tory policy. Surely it is hypocritical to have spent years decrying an action, only to continue it yourself?

It is time for a change in direction. More and more, the cuts to Scotland’s budget harm our country’s economic growth and the prospects for our young people. We need to invest, to provide the next generation of Scots with the chances they need to succeed.

Morayvia

Morayvia

Aviation has been an important part of Moray’s life for many years and Morayvia provides a four- star visitor attraction which builds on that heritage. Run by volunteers Morayvia has been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

I was delighted to read the Charlotte Wright, the interim chief executive of HIE, found time to tour this attraction and hear how it’s developing, with HIE’s help.

This illustrates the difference between other enterprise agencies and HIE. Uniquely, it is tasked with developing communities as well as businesses. I’m sure that you will agree with me that this can be better done if HIE continues to be rooted in the communities it serves. Taking away its abilities to set its own social priorities will change the whole reason for HIE’s existence, making our communities worse of.

HIE Petition

I have written before on insideMoray about the wrong-headed proposal by the Scottish Government to abolish the board of HIE and form a new national board along with a variety of other agencies.

I know, from the amount of constituents’ messages I have received that there is a good deal of support for the campaign to get the government to change its mind.

So, just to keep you up to date, Maureen Macmillan, a now retired, Highlands and Islands MSP, has lodged a petition, with the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, urging the Scottish Government to reverse its decision to abolish the HIE Board.

So, if you would like to get involved in this important campaign follow this link where you will be able to sign the petition:
http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01639

Dr Gray’s Hospital

Richard Lochhead

I read that Richard Lochhead has finally realised that there is an increasing difficulty in recruiting consultants for Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin. I have been campaigning about this situation for years.

Recruitment of medical staff outside the central belt is big problem. We are short not just of consultants, we are also lacking in G.Ps, especially in rural areas, midwifes, specialist nurses, radiographers and many other important medical skills.

Unfortunately, this problem has been a long time in the making, due to underinvestment and cuts to training places made by the Scottish Government. They have, at last, become aware of the problem – it’s coming up with a solution that they are struggling with.

To be fair to NHS Grampian, and other health boards, they are trying to resolve this problem. However, successive cuts to their budgets has meant that they are having to spend more time cutting services than enhancing services.

I refer back to the beginning of my article, where I wrote about budget choices. There is a simple choice. You can choose continued austerity or you can choose to raise enough money to provide the services we need.

I choose to provide the services. What’s your choice?

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