Scotland

Independent Budget Review: Reactions across Scotland

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Image caption Up to 60,000 public sector jobs could go, says the budget review panel

The review panel set up by the Scottish government to consider options for future public expenditure has released its report.

The Independent Budget Review report sets out a number of options for public spending cuts, including cutting up to 60,000 jobs and subjecting all public services to scrutiny.

The panel was created in February to detail which cuts could be made in the face of a £42bn squeeze over 16 years.

Here are some reactions to the report from a range of organisations.

Cosla

The council umbrella group said it was pleased to see the panel had "grasped the scale of the financial challenge and acknowledged head-on some of the difficult choices that will have to be made".

President Pat Watters called for the Scottish government and parliament to "look seriously" at the panel's conclusions in the lead-up to the spending review and work alongside Cosla to look at all the options raised in the report.

He added: "Local government will continue to be rigorous around efficiencies but the key message in this report is one we would endorse - there are some difficult choices ahead because the gap will not be met by efficiencies alone."

Scottish Chambers of Commerce

The SCC welcomed the findings of the report.

Garry Clark, head of policy and public affairs, said: "It has been clear for some time that Scotland needs to put its public sector and public services under the microscope if we are to ensure that they are fully geared towards supporting the private sector growth that we need to power the nation on towards greater prosperity.

"We are particularly pleased that this report highlights the need for government to recognise that there must be no sacred cows when it comes to implementing the budget cuts which must be borne over the next few years."

Scottish Trades Union Congress

The STUC responded to the report by saying it contained little that was new or different from all of the main recommendations already being widely debated.

General secretary Grahame Smith said: "Therefore the recommendation for a real-terms public sector pay cut comes as no surprise but the poorly evidenced calls for a recruitment freeze and action on sickness management are disappointing."

Mr Smith also said the timescale and costs associated with transforming Scottish Water into a "public interest" company were barely mentioned.

He added: "The STUC is clear that this model represents back-door privatisation and will be massively resisted by civic Scotland."

Royal College of Nursing Scotland

The RCN said an honest and open debate was now needed about the future of Scotland's public services.

Director Theresa Fyffe commented: "The much-anticipated Independent Budget Review raises some significant questions about the future of public services which will require meaningful thought and debate before any decisions are made by the Scottish government and public sector bodies about the way forward.

"Many of the options set out in the review might meet the challenges of the short-term financial pressures that we are currently facing but a strategic vision for the future of public services, including health services, is urgently needed to ensure financial cuts now still allow for a positive future for Scotland."

University and College Union

The union attacked the suggestion in the report of a possible re-introduction of university tuition fees in Scotland.

It said the review had gone beyond its remit, arguing that proposals for tuition fees or a graduate contribution could not be implemented in time to benefit universities within the spending review period.

UCU Scottish official Mary Senior said: "Calls for tuition fees to be introduced in Scotland not only go beyond the remit of the review, but are also contrary to what the public wants and the political reality."

Citizens Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland claimed the proposed budget cuts would represent "a blow to the most vulnerable people in Scotland" and called for the government to make clear they would protect vital services.

Acting chief executive Susan McPhee said: "People are already struggling to cope with the effects of the recession and many of the recent UK budget implications have just begun to sink in. These recent recommendations announced today by the budget review group will disproportionately further affect low-income groups' finances in Scotland."

Oxfam

The charity said it agreed with the idea that all public services should be open to scrutiny and that there should be debate on how to make them more effective.

But it added that it was "paramount that any changes to public services based on this review should not make life harder for the poorest people in Scotland".

UK poverty programme co-ordinator Jim Boyle said: "All spending needs to be assessed according to the impact on the poorest, and any proposed cuts need to be scrutinised as to whether they will reduce or exacerbate inequalities."

Friends of the Earth Scotland

Friends of the Earth Scotland said the review added "further weight to the argument" that the time had come for the government to look once again at spending £2bn on a second Forth Road Bridge.

A spokesman commented: "As the report recognises, we must focus on maintaining our existing assets rather than squandering money on unnecessary developments."

He added that £2bn would be "far better spent protecting public sector jobs, maintaining concessionary public transport fares and tackling climate change".

WWF Scotland

The charity claimed the review had missed a "golden opportunity" to support efforts to "green"' the economy.

Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy, said: "We are disappointed that this report fails to adequately address a critical commitment set out in the remit of responding effectively to climate change.

"The review is a missed opportunity to support the Scottish government and parliament in their challenging task of ensuring public spending decisions contribute to reducing Scotland's climate emissions and global footprint."

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