Derek Mackay: ‘My budget protects public services and those who deliver them’

Derek MacKay MSP (Pictured) at Aberdeen Council Chambers in Aberdeen Town House

Finance secretary Derek Mackay has insisted the Scottish Government treats local government “very fairly” as he was grilled by MSPs in Aberdeen yesterday.

Mr Mackay was in the Granite City to give evidence to the parliament’s finance committee on his draft budget plans – which critics say equates to the slashing of council funding.

But the Holyrood finance chief said his proposals would not cut the amount of cash given to councils and stressed that local authorities had new options to get money through city deals and the ability to raise council tax by up to 3%.

He also insisted that all cash collected through business rates and council tax stayed with the councils, and that any suggestions of money going to the central belt had been made for “political reasons”.

He said: “My budget protects public services and those who deliver them.

“The 2018/19 local government finance settlement will see an increase in both the revenue and the finance budgets… Which together with local authority’s ability to increase council tax is worth around £77million this year and will generate a real terms increase in the resources available to local government.”

He added that funding the NHS remained the “number one priority” for the Scottish Government.

Aberdeenshire West Conservative MSP Alexander Burnett, who sits on the committee, said:  “Aberdeen has long been at the bottom of the pile when it comes to funding, and Aberdeenshire is not far behind as the third lowest funded in Scotland.

“Quite simply, this is unfair. Our councils here in the north-east have been short-changed for several years now, and so far, neither Cosla nor the SNP government is showing any appetite to make a change.”