When the SNP Government was setting its 2017/18 budget Derek Mackay bragged that it was only “marginally” different from what the UK Government was proposing and went on to cut funding for services in Edinburgh. Yes, after lots of chuntering about the need for new powers, the SNP dithered and failed to use them.
The impact of this is clear to anyone living in Edinburgh. This year we’ve had an epidemic of weeds on our footpaths, systematic problems with refuse collections and most recently we’ve been struggling to repair street lights.
In my own Ward I was recently invited to attend a meeting of Braidburn School’s Parent Council. Braidburn School is a fantastic facility at the heart of my Ward which offers a positive learning environment for pupils aged 3 to 18 years with additional support needs.
At this meeting, which was quite emotional at times, I learned that the holiday activities previously offered to children attending the school had been cut by a third. The budget has been largely protected, but costs and demand are rising.
These children are literally among the most vulnerable in Edinburgh and the holiday activities are a lifeline for parents who are statistically more liable to suffer everything from relationship break-down to mental health problems.
I was ashamed that Scotland’s capital was letting these children down. It is an example, however, of how the most vulnerable people in society are paying the price for the combined actions of the UK and Scottish Governments.
I have since raised the issue with Councillors Perry and Dickie (Education Convener & Vice-Convener respectively), as well as with Council Officers. All care just as much as I do about this service, but the budget squeeze means that they must work within current resources and that means reducing the support available to children with additional support needs. This should shame us all.
Indeed, this is a non-statutory service so if the current level of cuts continue it will come under huge pressure.
Soon Derek Mackay MSP will be setting Edinburgh’s 2018/19 budget. Let’s hope that rather than making “marginal” changes, this time he and Nicola Sturgeon think of the children at Braidburn School and enact real change. Real change for the many.