The SNP’s three Argyll and Bute parliamentarians have hit out at the local council’s political leadership as a consultation exercise on proposals for major cuts in jobs and services moves a step closer.
Holyrood constituency MSP Michael Russell, Highlands and Islands MSP Mike Mackenzie and Westminster MP Brendan O’Hara have put their name to a 20-page briefing paper which they say lays out an alternative to the council’s ‘Service Choices’ approach, which has put the full-time equivalent of more than four hundred jobs at risk.
But as well as putting forward their alternative, the document accuses the council’s coalition of independent, Liberal Democrat and Conservative members of blaming the Scottish Government for their own failings.
The paper - published as councillors prepare to consider a public consultation process on the ‘Service Choices’ programme later this week - was released after council leader Dick Walsh made a plea to the Scottish Govermnent seeking extra funding for the authority.
Mr Russell said: “Over the past fortnight all of us have received a substantial number of emails and other representations from our constituents expressing horror at what is being proposed by Dick Walsh.
“Our briefing paper lays out why his approach is the wrong one, tells the truth about how the council has found itself in this position and makes some constructive suggestions for the future.
“I know that the SNP group on the council will have much to add to our thoughts on this process and we will all be working closely together to ensure that the people of the area are supported and protected.”
Mr O’Hara added: “The SNP in Argyll and Bute will work with anybody and everybody to oppose these cuts and to find a better way forward.
“We have made it clear we are happy to go with the council leadership to see the Scottish and Westminster governments and argue the special case that exists here, but of course we have to be honest and admit that much of the problem lies with the failure of the current administration to manage council finances and council services in an appropriate and positive way.
“Their desire to blame anyone but themselves is unedifying and presents a picture that is untrue.”
Mr MacKenzie, who lives on the island of Easdale, near Oban, said: “This area is suffering the worst depopulation in Scotland but these proposals can only make that situation worse.
“The council has so far failed to make any impact on that problem but if it were to set itself the realistic target of matching the average increase in population in Scotland it would solve its financial problems within five years.
“Our suggestions for change start to address those issues and I hope that others will bring forward further positive ideas because there are many alternatives to what is being imposed.”
Councillor Sandy Taylor, leader of the SNP group on Argyll and Bute Council, said: “It is essential that the whole community of Argyll and Bute comes together to find a new approach.
“Wholesale cutting of budgets that help the most vulnerable is not the answer and the council group will be making that very clear in the weeks ahead. I welcome the contribution to this process that our Parliamentarians are making and their helpful suggestions.”
You can download the SNP briefing paper by clicking here.