New figures have revealed that Scotland’s schools have been forced to make £300 million in cuts over the past five years due to the squeeze on council budgets imposed by the SNP. The draft budget for 2016/17 would see services hammered again by £500 million in extra cuts.
The SNP say they want to close the attainment gap and help children reach their potential. Forcing through massive cuts to education budgets is a funny way to go about it. COSLA, the body representing Scotland’s councils, has said that the latest cuts look like being a step too far.
Councils have been forced to consider serious steps like cutting classroom assistants or increasing class sizes to meet the SNP’s demands. If they didn’t comply with the cuts, they faced the prospect of millions of pounds in fines from the Scottish Government.
Building a Scotland fit for the future starts with education. If we want children from every walk of life to have the opportunity to reach their potential then we need to invest in a quality education system.
The situation in education is urgent. 152,000 college places have been lost over the last few years. Literacy and numeracy standards have fallen and promises on early years care have been broken.
The Scottish Parliament has powers to raise revenue and invest in public services like education. The SNP are refusing to use them. Further cuts will not turn this round.
This is why Liberal Democrats have proposed a small tax increase that will allow us to raise £475 million a year to help give children the best start in life.
By adding a penny for education onto income tax, we could reverse college cuts, increase free early years care, introduce a pupil premium – targeted support for pupils who would benefit from extra help the most – and crucially, stop the SNP’s cuts to council education budgets.
Changes to the tax threshold mean that people earning less than £19,000 would still get a tax cut next year under our plans. So we can raise this extra money while protecting those on the lowest incomes.
Labour have followed the Liberal Democrat lead and announced that they want to use the Holyrood tax powers this year too.
Today, the SNP have a final opportunity to change their minds when the Scottish Government budget comes back to Holyrood.
During the debate this afternoon I’ll call on John Swinney to reconsider his cuts to local authorities and commit to a budget of equality.
The SNP have been walking left and talking right for far too long. If they really are a progressive party, it is time that they started acting like it.