Local Authority Services (Rural Economy)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

4. To ask the Scottish Government what the impact has been on the rural economy of reductions to local authority services. (S5O-03604)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The funding of local authority services is the responsibility of individual local authorities. In 2019-20, the Scottish Government is delivering a funding package of £11.2 billion for local authorities, which represents a real-terms increase of £310 million, or 2.9 per cent.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

The passing of cuts to councils by the Government has resulted in severe cuts across all communities. Rural communities need investment in roads, transport and infrastructure to attract new business opportunities and a strong workforce. How does the Scottish Government expect the rural economy to grow and attract inward investment when councils that fund the infrastructure are faced with—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am sorry to interrupt, but members are all drifting into very long questions, and other members are not getting in.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I think that that question is primarily for my colleague with responsibility for local government. However, I can inform the member that the funding available to local authorities has been increased, not reduced, so we do not accept the fundamental premise of her question. Indeed, in the west of Scotland, East Renfrewshire has received an additional £7.6 million, Inverclyde an additional £8.2 million, North Ayrshire an additional £31 million and Renfrewshire an additional £19.9 million. I could go on, but I think that the point has been made.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Will the minister comment on the fact that the loss of people working in key rural sectors in local communities is a real threat to our rural economy and public services? What is the Scottish Government doing to encourage European Union nationals to stay in rural Scotland?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I agree with Gillian Martin. The programme for government sets out a commitment to stem rural depopulation, which includes establishing a cross-portfolio ministerial task force. Of course, uncertainty relating to Brexit continues to be a significant threat to rural Scotland. For example, more than 90 per cent of vets in our abattoirs are EU nationals.

Our stay in Scotland campaign recognises the vital importance of EU nationals to Scotland and the rural economy. The campaign provides essential advice and support to help them to remain here, as they are very welcome.