Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has expressed concern following the release of figures which indicate that the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) is to receive the worst financial settlement of any local authority in Scotland, while rates paid by businesses in the islands are forecast to rise by 10%.
Mr Cameron said: “The figures released from the SNP Government show that the Comhairle is to receive an overall increase of just 0.38%, which of course is below the rate of inflation.
“This is the lowest figure for any local authority in Scotland.
“If you remove ring-fenced funding for additional Scottish Government projects, the actual amount received for the council’s core activities is to be cut by 2% - which is on top of the years of cuts that have already caused so much difficulty.
“At the same time as Council services are due to be further sliced, the business community in the Western Isles is looking at an overall rise in its business rate contribution of over 10%.
“Any business which operated like this would have ceased trading years ago.
“How on earth are we supposed to build a brighter future for our island communities when our business sector is treated like this?
“The SNP Government does not seem to understand that the economy depends on us having thriving private businesses, large and small.
“Instead of passing on the extra funding it has received from the UK Government, the SNP Government has continued to starve local authorities in the Highlands and Islands while finding money to spend on its pet projects, usually in the Central Belt.”
Councillor Ran Fraser (Sgir Uige agus Ceann a Tuath nan Loch) said: “For the islands to prosper and attract and retain young people we need to create the conditions for businesses to thrive.
“I hope that this tenet is always a consideration for any Scottish government.
“I am fearful that business rate payers and domestic council tax payers in the Western Isles are faced with another year of ‘pay more, get less’ when it comes to the council services that we all rely on.”