This Wednesday John Swinney, Scotland's Finance Secretary, will present his 2010-11 budget statement, in which he intends t make £900 million of spending cuts next year, to the Scottish Parliament. The draft budget is well documented and we're informed public service workers earning over £21,000 will be asked to take a pay freeze although council tax will be frozen again for the fourth year.
This weekend trade unions have dropping hints they intend to ballot their members on industrial action but Mr Swinney argues that salaries account for 55% of Scottish government spending and a pay freeze would save £300 million, the equivalent of 10,000 jobs. Councils have already decided to implement a two-year pay freeze.
Ale McLuckie, GMB Scotland's senior organiser, said: "This would actually be a cut in living standards for working people in Scotland. Public sector workers are paying the price for the crisis that was caused through the behaviour of bankers." At times these union bosses do more harm than good and this statement doesn't help their cause. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association aren't happy either.
Isn't it time public sector employees realised there are private sector workers who have been subject to pay restraints for a couple of years now, yet they know, without co-operating with their employers, they could well be unemployed.
It's inevitable that the unionist London-based parties will do nothing to help the SNP defend living standards in Scotland, so this budget is sure to be heavily criticised, although the Tory finance spokesman, Derek Brownlee, welcomed the freeze and called for it to be extended for at least another year:
“We would rather people were in work with a pay freeze than out of work with no freeze at all. It is the only way to help Scotland out of Labour’s mess,” he said.If anyone can do a balancing act between fairness and the austere measures, imposed on us by the Westminster Parliament, John Swinney can. I wish him good luck.