Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today criticised the Scottish budget, highlighting key failures in areas where his party has been pushing for action including long Covid, social care and climate change.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"Scottish Liberal Democrats have shown we are serious about working with the government on the recovery. We secured £120 million more for mental health in a budget deal earlier this year.
"However, I am concerned to see the prospect of a real-terms pay cut for teachers, nurses and tens of thousands of public sector workers. Coupled with the Tories’ National Insurance hike they are going to feel the pinch.
"A 48 pence increase for social care staff isn’t going to deliver the transformation the sector so desperately needs and won’t stop the workforce shortages. We need to get on with powerful national bargaining to secure real change, not tie the sector up in years of discussions around a National Care Service. Likewise council funding looks set to be squeezed again as government ringfencing bites
"In my talks with the Finance Secretary I also raised the issue of long Covid, so I was disappointed to see there was no mention of it in either the statement or the budget book. 100,000 Scots are being badly affected by this condition; we need to see urgent action."
On the revelation on page 78 (slide 87) that spending on the Net Zero, Energy and Transport portfolio is set to fall from £4.414bn to £4.413bn, he said:
"It's bizarre and short-sighted that as soon as COP26 is in the rear-view mirror any pretence that this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency vanishes.
"The Scottish Greens must be the only green party in the world to go into government and actually manage to get less money spent on net zero, energy and transport."
On the inclusion of funds for “the necessary preparations for a Scottish referendum” on page 94 (slide 103) of the budget he added:
"What Scotland needs is a government with a laser focus on the issues that really matter - the recovery from the pandemic, the state of our health service and the climate emergency. Setting resources aside for their pet goal of breaking up the UK suggests that this is a government that is dangerously distracted."