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Letters / Lewis Carroll school of PR logic

Thank you for your report on Our Islands Our Future (OIOF)’s “real progress” on devolution [‘Robinson hails progress on islands devolution’, SN 23/2/16].

Three years on and OIOF will enjoy continued “access to the highest levels of government” – even after the election, when new ministers will decide their destiny.

Nice to know that unique opportunity in Shetland’s history hasn’t been squandered? Aye, right!

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And what’s all this about new ferries? I thought the SIC was talking to the Scottish government about fixed road links (tunnels)? Never mind, as long as the council can ‘just about afford the revenue costs of ferries”, who needs tunnels?

How Mr Robinson can come out singing the praises of these “positive discussions” when he can’t point to a single tangible OIOF gain after 12 meetings and this year’s five per cent cut in SIC’s government funding is beyond me.

And as for SNP local government minister Marco Biagi trying to spin a yarn about that miserly funding cut: “South of the border, over three years, they cut 27 per cent off of local government budgets,” Biagi said, “and as a result of the Barnett formula, every time the UK Government cuts funding in England there’s a corresponding cut in funding to Scotland.”

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I’m sorry, previous years’ figures are irrelevant, he was asked about THIS YEAR.

And “this year”, in flat cash terms, the Scottish government received a small increase (from £30,141 million to £30.286 million). Yet Scottish councils’ funding allocation has been cut by over 1 percent overall and Shetland’s, by 5.1 percent (or 4.4 percent, if you prefer Mr Biagi’s version).

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He continued: “We’ve been able to protect local authorities in Scotland … and they’re in a challenging but, I would say, fair settlement position at this point that is just a one per cent reduction in overall gross expenditure.”

Really? By Mr Biagi’s own admission, the SIC has this year suffered “a 4.4 per cent reduction in overall gross expenditure” while the Scottish government has enjoyed a small increase. If that’s “protecting” them I wouldn’t like to witness an attack.

“Asked why Shetland ended up with a bigger proportional cut than other areas, Biagi said accounting for local government was “quite complex” but Shetland still received the “second highest per-head spend in Scotland”.

“We have a mechanism that reduces the movements year-to-year, keeps those authorities used to receiving high allocations in that sort of territory, so Shetland was on the floor, minus 4.4 per cent…”

This is self-contradictory. If Shetland receives the “second highest per-head spend..” then it must be one of those councils  “used to receiving high allocations..” so the “mechanism..(should have kept it).. in that sort of territory.” However, … “Shetland was on the floor, minus 4.4 per cent”?

This latter statement came, presumably, courtesy of the Lewis Carroll school of financial and political PR logic?

At the end of the day, in Mr Biagi’s own words, Shetland has suffered a “4.4 percent reduction in overall gross expenditure” while the Scottish government has enjoyed a £145 million increase and there is no way he or Derek MacKay can spin their way out of that.

That’s the ‘Tartan Tories’ for you – “Cut, cut, cut!”

John Tulloch

Wir Shetland chairman

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