Sturgeon skewered over ‘discredited’ £1.3bn council plan

Nicola Sturgeon says she has ‘plenty left in the tank’

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Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised for her “discredited” plans for a National Care Service, which is expected to cost up to £1.3billion in red tape. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have called for the First Minister to give the money instead to local councils. The mounting pressure on Ms Sturgeon comes ahead of a key vote on the Scottish Budget today.

Shadow Finance Secretary Liz Smith said funding for the “discredited and unaffordable plans”, which involve a centralised care service, should be diverted towards improving local authority social care provision.

The new National Care Service would see responsibility for adult and children’s social care in Scotland transferred to a series of new boards overseen by ministers.

A financial memorandum published with the legislation warned that up to £1.3billion is expected to be spent on red tape for the service and its care boards in the first five years alone.

Kenneth Gibson, the SNP convener of Holyrood’s finance committee, warned the plans risked being a hugely expensive “sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

Meanwhile, Michelle Thomson, another SNP committee member, said that ministers were signing a “blank cheque for the public purse”.

MSPs will vote today on whether or not Mr Swinney’s Budget for the coming financial year should clear its first parliamentary hurdle.

Ms Smith also called for Deputy First Minister John Swinney to match the business rates relief available to firms in England, after the Treasury handed him the required funds to do so through the Barnett formula.

The residents of Scotland pay around £1billion more in income tax each year than English citizens as a result of the SNP’s higher tax rates.

But Ms Smith noted that this only generates an extra £325 million because of Scotland’s lower economic growth rates.

She hit out at Ms Sturgeon’s party, saying that the SNP’s “excuses for the huge spending cuts he’s imposing don’t stack up, and that Scots are paying the price for SNP incompetence”.

Ms Swinney has complained of “one of the most challenging financial environments since devolution” and argued his decision to increase the top two rates of income tax by a penny meant extra funding for the NHS.

Ms Sturgeon has come under fire in recent weeks as a result of a row over trans rights.

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The issue was thrown into the spotlight after the SNP introduced legislation which would make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender and get a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

The legislation, while seen by many as an integral part of trans inclusion, was deeply controversial within the SNP.

The Government blocked the law using Section 35 of the Scotland Act, arguing it interfered with UK equality law.

The row attracted further controversy when trans woman Isla Bryson was sentenced for two rapes committed prior to her gender change. Pending sentence, Bryson was initially sent to Cornton Vale women’s prison before she was transferred to HMP Edinburgh.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown then announced a “pause” on the transfer of transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women to women’s prisons.

An urgent review is now taking place into the Bryson case and there is an ongoing review by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).

Ms Sturgeon has faced mounting calls to resign over the issue, with the First Minister being accused of inconsistency when it comes to her trans policy.

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