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JAMIE HALCRO JOHNSTON: Nationalist MSPs back bad budget

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By Jamie Halcro Johnston, Tory MSP for the Highlands

What will the Budget mean?
What will the Budget mean?

The last few weeks have seen the Scottish Government's Budget – one almost universally accepted as being dreadful for Scotland – waived through parliament by SNP and Scottish Green MSPs.

It won’t reduce poverty. It will damage economic growth. It will lead to severe cuts to vital public services. And it will leave communities and business struggling.

But former health secretary Shona Robison – who, you’ll remember, was responsible for the SNP’s blocked gender reform bill and has now been rewarded by being promoted to finance minister in Humza Yousaf’s cabinet of second (or, possibly, third) chancers – chose to ignore all of this.

Local councils across the Highlands and Islands are already under immense strain from years of financial pressure. These new SNP/Green cuts only further jeopardise those essential services that many, including some of our most vulnerable residents, rely on.

We know that the housing budget has been cut by a staggering £190 million, which will only worsen the housing crisis in the Highlands, making it even harder for local people to secure homes.

The impact on health services is just as worrying. Too many communities have already seen a running down of local services, and now there will be further delays to vital improvements such as the much-needed new Belford Hospital in Fort William. That means patients and staff left for longer relying on ageing facilities that are increasingly unfit for purpose.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In last week’s UK budget, on top of individual awards made to communities across the region, the Chancellor announced another £300 million of funding for Scotland. The bad news is that this goes straight into Scottish Government coffers in Edinburgh and we all know that, once Scottish ministers have their hands on it, there’s little chance of much of that cash making it out of the Central Belt.

So a bad Scottish budget for our region. And yet again, as local SNP and Green MSPs put loyalty to their government in Edinburgh ahead of their constituents in the Highlands and Islands, it’s local communities that are left to deal with the fallout.

But nationalist MSPs should be worried – because those communities won’t forget who’s to blame.


As the SNP ferries crisis rumbles on, and the cost of the two “vessels” on Clyde increases again, islanders look on with growing anger and frustration.

Everyone accepts that serious action is needed to replace ageing and increasingly unreliable ferries right across Scotland. But appeals for that action seem to fall on deaf ears in Edinburgh.

What is also concerning is the role that SNP ministers seem determined that Ferguson Marine, the yard that has played a central role in the shambles of the two delayed boats for CalMac, will play.

I want ships to be built here in Scotland. We were very good at doing that before the SNP took control, and the UK government has been successful in building aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates here in Scottish yards.

But as an islander, I also know that we need ferries and we need them fast. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same confidence in Scottish Government-run Ferguson’s as SNP ministers do. And I doubt I’m alone in this.

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