Jamie Halcro Johnston: SNP's nearly £80 million in cuts will hit rural Scotland hard
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As we all know, living in remote and rural parts of the Highlands can be challenging enough.
That’s why responsible governments recognise the need to support rural and island communities. To help overcome, or reduce, those challenges where they can.
However, despite receiving record funding from the UK Government, the SNP has chosen a different approach.
Holyrood’s finance committee, of which I’m a member, has been scrutinising the SNP’s latest budget and, as I raised with the deputy first minister (and finance secretary), rural Scotland has been hit hard.
Agriculture support has been cut by over £33 million. A similar amount has been cut from Forestry, £7 million has been lost from the marine budget. Nearly £2 million slashed from islands funding. Land Reform funding is down by £3.5 million.
That’s nearly £80 million in total cuts to the rural affairs, land reform and islands budget alone.
But that’s not all. Because Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s budget has been cut by another £8 million next year. The housing budget across Scotland has been cut by a horrifying £200 million. And while the SNP push ahead with their plans for a Visitor Levy – making visiting parts of Scotland more expensive, even for those who live here – they’ve cut the tourism budget by nearly £6 million.
And education hasn’t escaped either, with college funding cut by nearly £60 million, while 1200 fewer places at Scottish universities will be available for Scottish students. And, of course, local council budgets have been under increasing pressure for years, hitting public services.
So, pressure on housing. On farming and crofting. On fishing. On tourism. On support for Higher and Further education. And on local government and the services it delivers.
It's decisions by SNP and Green ministers in Edinburgh that will have a real impact on life here in the Highlands.
And as we know, living in remote and rural parts of the Highlands can be challenging enough.
His Majesty The King
I doubt there is anyone reading this article who hasn’t had their lives touched by cancer in some way, and many of us will have lost loved ones and friends to the condition.
Even as treatments and survival rates improve, a cancer diagnosis will always be something which strikes fear into people, forcing them to put their lives on hold and devastating those close to them.
This week, we learned that The King is receiving treated for an undisclosed cancer, and I’m sure we all wish him all the very best for a speedy and full recovery.
My thoughts are with His Majesty and his family as he undergoes treatment. And with all those who are fighting or recovering from cancer, and to their loved ones.
And my thanks goes to all those working to find new ways of beating cancer. And to those who - day in, day out - provide the care and support to cancer suffers and their families that is so important.