Nigel’s Notes - The funds available are falling

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Now that we are past the day of the patron saint of card manufacturers we can look forward to spring, budgets and elections.

Of these spring is surely the least predictable.

What is entirely predictable is that the news this week will be about the fiscal framework, a matter of huge significance to our country.

Expect a lot of obfuscation; the real point is that the Westminster government wants to reduce Scotland’s share of the UK expenditure regardless of who is setting or collecting the taxes.

Westminster’s view of “no detriment” is not “carry on as you were before”.

The funds available are falling and a large chunk of their budget cannot really be shrunk because education is a statutory service and the number of school teachers has been specifically protected.

Some money is being provided via the NHS to help with the joined up provision of social and health care, and whilst this goes a long way to help it cannot be used for other council services.

I am concerned that local authorities do not yet seem to have grasped the need and opportunity to share services.

They still each have their own payroll system; refuse collections do not cross boundaries; youngsters are still bussed across Dundee to go to a school in Angus because they live in that small part of Angus to the west of Dundee!

I don’t want to see everything organised nationally but why can’t local authorities sell their skills to each other and discover the economies of scale and expertise?

This session of the Scottish Parliament is soon coming to an end. We cease on March 23rd, after which there will be no MSPs until after the election on May 5th. The Scottish Government will continue to exist and function, government ministers are still ministers though no longer MSPs.

After March 23rd I and my staff will be unable to take on any new constituency issues, though we can continue to progress existing ones.

And in the remaining weeks of this parliament MSPs will be very busy completing the legislative programme.

There are bills to be completed on land reform, bankruptcy, burials and cremations, private housing, lobbying and health.

And my Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee will be looking at the details of all the statutory instruments which are still to be laid to add and modify the detail of our law.