Last week's Scottish Budget delivered a new series of cuts to the economy of the Western Isles, confirming once more that the SNP government has again set its course to simply pass on Tory austerity, claims the Western Isles Labour party.
Further cuts to local authority grants with no whimper of complaint from local SNP politicians confirms that SNP centralisation is continuing, to the cost of all who live on the islands, they say.
A 3% council tax rise will do little to off-set the continued cuts to the Comhairle’s budgets. The Western Isles has the lowest rates and smallest revenue from council tax of all Scotland's local authorities.
"Council tax increases favour the wealthiest local authorities, and we are seeing an ever increasing postcode lottery in care services across Scotland with residents in the Western Isles the victims."
Meanwhile the SNP's continued failures on Education are met with a weak answer - remove local control from education and all will be well, the Labour party claims
"After a decade in power, where is the initiative from the SNP to nurture the rural and remote islands? Where is the will to devolve the Crown Estate monies to the islands? Where is the vision to turn the Crofting Commission from an abject management failure to a success, or the admission of the sheep subsidy payments fiasco?"
Matt Bruce, Chair of WICLP, said: "Everywhere one looks in the Scottish budget there is an agenda of damaging centralisation and negative economic impacts for the Western Isles. Once more local SNP politicians are unwilling to protect the islands' economy and communities from cuts. Without an economic development agency that has the power, resources and knowledge to address the issues that face our island economies and communities, 2017 will be a bleak year across the islands; for care services and for increasing population decline.
"Christmas can be a challenging time for many people and families in the islands. Unsecure jobs, the risk of unemployment, high cost of fuel and the lack of adequate care services are cutting away at that basic need – hope for better times.
"This situation is avoidable, and Scottish Labour nationally and locally will campaign in 2017 to turn back this tide of decline. Nicola Sturgeon obsesses about a new referendum while we will demand that Holyrood acts to secure the future of our island economy and communities.
“A vote in 2017 for SNP in the local elections will be a vote for increased centralisation and hard local cuts. There is a choice. Our islands can face a better future but we have to vote for a future with hope and direct proposals to deliver not divide."