Last week, reports in the press revealed the cost of staff cuts across the public sector.
According to the figures, over £600m of public money has been spent on redundancies, early retirement and other forms of severance for over 34,000 workers across Scotland since 2007.
A breakdown of the figures, obtained under Freedom of Information by my colleague Ken Macintosh, reveals how these figures relate to the Lothian region.
Since 2007, almost £52m has been spent by public bodies in the region to lay off over 3,500 staff. These cuts are having a direct impact on council services, further and higher education and the police. These figures exclude NHS Lothian so the final total is likely to be higher.
One of the key areas highlighted by the figures is the impact on colleges. Since 2007, over £7m has been spent on staff cuts at colleges in the Lothians resulting in the loss of 286 staff. This has resulted in fewer young people being able to get a place at college.
At a time of high unemployment, and high youth unemployment in particular, the college sector has a vital role to play in helping to repair our economy, providing opportunities for people of all ages, and particularly young people, to develop new skills that can help them find a job. However, this role is being undermined by budget cuts.
On Wednesday the SNP government’s budget was passed, inflicting further cuts of £25 million from Scotland’s college budgets. I am concerned that this will lead to more job losses and course cuts. My view is that the Budget should be focusing on creating jobs and growth but last week’s figures on employment show that the Scottish government is instead focused on reducing the public sector.
Last Thursday the day after the budget went through we debated the local government finance order. This was the only chance for opposition parties to highlight our questions about the budgets being allocated to local authorities across the country. The Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee refused to invite the Minister for Local Government so that he could be questioned on his proposals. That meant that Thursday’s order, was proposed on a take it or leave it basis.
You can see the concerns I raised in my speech about the impact on job losses and services across the country in the Official Report of proceedings (page 24 at Line 16589).