Comment: The writing’s on the wall

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This week Scottish Government announced plans to boost funds to libraries — at a time the very same Government has Local Councils in a budget stranglehold — starving libraries and other essential community services from the vital funds they need to survive.

On National Libraries Day (February 6), 300 libraries around Scotland will be allocated a share of £90,000 to pay for new book stock and supplement existing displays.

At the same time, what has also become apparent, is that the national library improvement fund is being cut by £50,000 next year. A bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul.’

Efforts to support the use of reading, writing and counting in everyday activities among families of P1-3 children are being rolled into Scotland’s libraries as part of the next phase of the Scottish Government’s Read, Write, Count campaign.

Many will be watching this Government drive to increase Library funding with conflicting emotions.

Its’ great that the cabinet secretary is directing support to the most deprived communities where kids are struggling to learn to read and libraries are desperate for more resources.

But we might not be in this mess in the first place if it wasn’t for the harsh cuts piled onto Scottish councils over the past few years.

The Scottish Government cannot just plaster the damage caused by cuts to vital public services.

The long-term solution to funding libraries and other vital public services is a fair form of local tax.

The Scottish Greens will be campaigning for strong local authorities with the power and resources to fund our libraries and other essential services.

Communities across Scotland are suffering as successive years of the council tax freeze and additional cuts to council budgets impact on frontline services.

The Scottish Government cannot continue to pass the buck.

Its budget is about choices and as it stands it is choosing to restrict the powers and freedom of our local authorities.

The council tax freeze pledged by the SNP at the 2011 election was only for the duration of this session of parliament, which ends before the start of the new financial year.

Rather than hide behind fear of rocking the boat in the wake of a Holyrood election campaign, what would win more respect from voters is leadership with the courage to take risks, and facilitate a joined up approach to setting budgets and protecting vital services.

People know what services matter most to them, and it’s those local voices that count.

All of Scotland’s communities deserve access to the libraries, social care and education that makes for vibrant places to live, work and play – it shouldn’t come down to a funding boost issued on a whim.

The challenge from the Scottish Greens to the Scottish Government is to be bold in the budget and show real commitment to the fairer, greener Scotland so many people want to see.