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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-12358: Bill Bowman (North East Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 3 November 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what concerns regarding (a) the funding of local services and (b) other matters in the north east were raised at the Cabinet's public meeting in Montrose in August 2017; what steps it has taken to address these, and what progress has been made.

Answered by: Derek Mackay 15 November 2017

The Cabinet meeting in Montrose on 15 August provided members of the public the opportunity to raise matters direct with Ministers.

With regard to (a), following concerns being raised about local government funding for Angus Council I met with the Leader of Angus Council on 14 September 2017.

The Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government. Councils will receive funding through local government finance settlement of more than £10.4 billion for 2017-18. Taken together with a range of other measures this amounts to an extra £383 million or 3.7 per cent in additional support for local authority services compared to 2016-17. Angus Council's share amounted to £5.6 million or 2.7%. Local council budgets for 2018-19 will be confirmed later this year.

In terms of (b), the public session raised the following actions, which have been taken forward:

Bob Myles, Leader of the Council, asked for SG to provide more resources to Angus Council. I offered to meet with him, and this meeting took place on 14 September.

There were concerns raised about Public Contracts Scotland, which the individual concerned felt had badly affected the construction industry. I offered to meet directly with the complainer. Contact was made following the Cabinet and despite the Cabinet Secretary's Private Office offering a number of meeting opportunities, these have not been taken up and no further response has been received.

Matters relating to dementia care were raised, with the person who brought them to the Cabinet's attention stating that people from Montrose need to travel to Forfar or Dundee for services while the local care home sat empty. Angus Health and Social Care Partnership recently conducted a review of residential and nursing care home provision in Angus. Scottish Government officials have offered a meeting between the individual, the local partnership and officials, which may take place following publication of the review.

Concerns were raised around public transport, specifically that the local bus service was expensive and limited. The Scottish Government has raised the issue with the relevant Regional Transport Partnership (Tactran) and Angus Council officers. However, the provision of local bus services is largely a matter for individual bus operators, who use their own commercial judgement on service routes and frequencies. Scottish Government provides an annual grant, the Bus Service Operators Grant, to the bus industry, currently £53.5 million, with the aim to keep fares at affordable levels and enabling bus operators to run services that might not otherwise be commercially viable. However, the Scottish Government has no power to fund services directly. Local authorities can, of course, choose to subsidise services where they deem it necessary, and while the Scottish Government provides funding for bus services within local authority grant settlements, it is for the councils themselves to prioritise according to local needs.

An individual who had previously requested a meeting with the Minister for Transport and the Islands to discuss the impact of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route dividing their land attended to seek assurance that this meeting would take place. Mr Yousaf and Mr Brown both offered to meet with the individual to discuss and the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work met with them, along with officials from Transport Scotland, on 5 September 2017, on their land in Aberdeenshire. As a follow up to that meeting, representatives of Transport Scotland and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route/Balmedie to Tipperty project contractor met with the landowner on 18 October 2017. Work is ongoing to address the issues raised.

There were a number of complaints regarding provision of mental health care in Angus, and the impact that this was having on patients and their families. The First Minister committed to ensuring these were fedback to NHS Tayside and follow on work is being taken forward through Scottish Government Health officials.

The tourism potential of Montrose was highlighted and Mr Brown offered to bring the individual's suggestions to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs' awareness. This has been done, and the comments also provided to VisitScotland, which is already proactive in Montrose and the surrounding area, including working with Montrose Port Authority and the Council to ensure opportunities that the arrival of the first cruise ship to the port will bring in 2018 are fully maximised.