Rennie: Swinney cannot shirk responsibility for public sector cuts

The Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie has said there is no hiding place for John Swinney if he ploughs ahead with his cuts to council budgets, as MSPs come together to debate the draft 2016-17 budget.

Mr Rennie said that John Swinney’s refusal to use new income tax powers coming to Scotland and his strong-arming of councils, forcing them to accept his cuts, means every cut to any public service is his and his alone.

Under the draft budget, local authorities face a £500m funding cut and a £408m triple-lock of financial penalties if they raise council tax by just £1.

During today’s debate Mr Rennie called on the Scottish Government to support Liberal Democrat proposals to raise £475m for education by adding one penny onto each tax rate.

He said: “This budget is one of many firsts. The first budget with substantial tax powers, the first without a fixed income, the first where we can increase government spending, the first where there are costed alternative tax proposals on the table and the first where any pretence that councils have flexibility over council tax has evaporated.

“We value the relationship with our local authority partners – John Swinney can’t say that anymore after he strong-armed them into submission with triple whammy fines worth £408million.

“The people of Scotland will know that his refusal to act means that every single cut to public services in Scotland is a John Swinney cut. He cannot shirk it, he must accept it, he cannot point anywhere else.

“It is refreshing that there is a growing consensus in favour of urgent action to use the progressive tax powers to invest in public services. A penny for education is the right policy to make an urgent investment to get our country fit for the future.”

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