Many of us will have spluttered over our cornflakes this morning when we read headlines saying “Spending cuts ‘will rise to £42 billion’ for Scots”.
For a moment it made me want to pack up and leave a sign at the airports saying, ‘would the last person out of Scotland please turn off the lights’.
Is there really any need to be so gloomy? The headline figure is horrifying and it is only when you read on that you find out this is the Scottish Government adviser’s estimate of the squeeze on public spending over 16 years
So that works out at an average of £2.6 billion per year. Still very
deep cuts, but not quite so scary.
This announcement comes against the background of last month’s conflicting claims on Scotland’s current budget surplus or deficit.
The Scottish Government said that Scotland had a budget surplus of £1.3 billion for 2008-09 (including a geographical share of oil and gas and allowance for Scotland’s share of the banking bailout). The report went on to say this was the fourth year in succession that Scotland has been in surplus.
But Labour’s finance spokesman Andy Kerr rubbished the Scottish Government figures and said that Scotland was actually showing a deficit of £3 billion.
Perhaps this is too simplistic, but If we reckon the truth is half way between the two then it would mean a deficit of around £0.85 billion, in the context of a UK deficit of £72.3 billion. Over 16 years that would mean we require to make cuts of £13.6 billion to balance the books.
I’m sure there’s plenty of flaws in the logic there, but I do think we have to present a story with some hope.
At the moment we are being conditioned to expect:
- Our health service to be at least partially dismantled.
- Schools to close
- The vulnerable members of our society to be unsupported.
- Infrastructure (like roads) to fall into disrepair.
- Flagship projects like the Forth crossing to be put in question.
- And, to cap it all, we will all have to work until 70.
This is not the sort of vision to inspire people!
In the Aberdeen area the news is actually quite positive. The oil and gas industry, predominantly based here, is now the biggest contributor of Corporation Tax to the UK Exchequer.
There has been a surge of interest in exploration and it certainly looks as though the future is bright for the next decade or two.
We have the massive opportunity of marine renewables. And we have the huge potential of spin off from Trump International Golf Links Scotland.
But, we need to know that there will be money and drive from government to provide the necessary infrastructure and investment.
- The Aberdeen by-pass, promised for 2012 but looking in critical danger of delay.
- Other key transport projects, like the Haudagain, the airport linkage, extended runways and faster rail links.
- City centre improvements and regeneration.
So, tell us the truth. But there must be some hope and a vision among the gloom!