Politics

‘Passing buck!’ Union chief savages ‘utterly incompetent’ Sturgeon as rubbish piles up

Scotland: Rubbish lines Edinburgh's streets amid worker strikes

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GMB general secretary Gary Smith also branded the SNP/Green administration “utterly incompetent”, claiming: “The chickens have come home to roost.” GMB Scotland members in 16 council areas are taking four days of action from Friday until Monday, coinciding with existing action in Edinburgh.

Unions have already rejected a five percent wage increase – funded in part with £140million of Scottish Government cash – claiming this is insufficient in the face of rampant inflation and soaring bills.

Officially the dispute is between local government body Cosla and the unions, but Mr Smith has accused Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues of short-changing local authorities.

He told the Scottish Record: “We’re caught between a Tory Government that’s utterly rotten and a Scottish Government which is utterly incompetent.

“There has been politicking and posturing from COSLA and the Scottish Government, but ultimately the Scottish Government has to own this.

“We know that funding and support for local councils has been hammered over the past decade or more. It is very clear that we had a cost of living crisis developing.

“The Scottish Government had the opportunity and had the wherewithal to resolve this before now.”

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He added: “There’s a game that goes on and our people are just props in that, and the game is to keep this away from the door of Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government.

“The politics of grievance is the norm. Competence is the exception and the chickens have come home to roost.”

Accusing the Scottish Government of behaving “cynically”, he said: “The cost of living crisis has been well documented and well publicised. They knew this was coming.

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“They just thought they were going to be able to spin their way out of it, pass the buck and pass the responsibility onto local government.

He added: “For too often in the past they have got away with stuff. And I think they thought they were going to dodge this as well and somebody else would pick up the tab for that, but the truth is they’re catching the flak for it and rightly so.”

The strikes coincided with the Edinburgh Festival, with visitors to the Scottish capital confronted by overflowing bins and rubbish on the streets, Mr Smith pointed out.

Working class communities had been “abandoned” and “pushed increasingly to the periphery” he claiming, adding: “It’s been brought home to people about the valuable role that people who are often unseen now in a city like Edinburgh actually play.

“The city depends on low paid workers who are increasingly priced out of the city in which they were born and grew up.

“It’s just utterly wrong that it should take the Festival for politicians now to be getting concerned.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Whilst the Scottish Government has no formal role in the negotiations, we continue to work collaboratively with COSLA and the trades unions and met them today for continued discussions.

“I welcome the commitment from all parties to continue talks to find a fair and sustainable settlement that will bring an end to the ongoing industrial action.

“I want to ensure an early resolution and that will only come about if there’s intense dialogue. The Scottish Government has facilitated that today.”

He added: “We are doing all we can within the resources available to us in the face of the cost of living emergency and have provided an extra £140 million on a recurring basis to support a higher pay award.

“All areas of the public sector are having to make challenging savings to stay within budget.

“The UK Government has cut the Scottish Government’s budget and not adjusted it for inflation, exacerbating the financial situation for both government and councils.”

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