By Bill Heaney
West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl has a penchant for calling people liars.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling Jonathan a liar, but there can be no question that he is often economical with the truth and frequently wrong.
For example, he called Labour councillors liars when they produced a letter from Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, stating that there was no need for austerity cuts by West Dunbartonshire Council.
That was just before the summer break when Jonathan became known here as Mower McColl, the councillor who decided that in order to save money the Council would reduce maintenance in our parks, open spaces and cemeteries.
Cllrs David McBride, Martin Rooney and Danny Lennon were on the receiving end of a blast from Jonathan – and liar was just one of the derogatory terms he used in the council chambers.
Jonathan used the L word again at a meeting about the funding of community councils in Alexandria earlier this month when he announced a programme of consultations about their future.
When he was pressed again on the point that Sturgeon had written to someone in this constituency telling them there was no need for cuts, he didn’t deny it this time.
He just said that the First Minister, leader of the Scottish National Party, his party, was WRONG.
Well, we have news for you, Jonathan.
Nicola Sturgeon was right – and you were the one who was wrong.
How do we know?
We know because a damning Audit Scotland report reveals that Scottish Government’s budget has been underspent by nearly £340 million.
The report reveals that departments failed to spend £339 million in 2017/18, this was up from just £85 million the previous year.
Dumbarton MSP, Jackie Baillie, has rightly now called for the Scottish Government to direct vital resources to public services, which have been bleeding cash since the SNP took control at Holyrood.
The Audit Scotland report exposes the fact that the Education and Skills portfolio is the biggest loser with a £115 million under-spend – despite widespread problems with resourcing in schools.
This has been happening while Nicola Sturgeon has been claiming that education is her top priority.
The other big losers from this scandal, which reveals that although Sturgeon is constantly going around with a begging bowl looking for more money from Westminster, she doesn’t know what to do with it when she gets it.
Other big losers from the fact that she has the cash in her sporran but doesn’t know how to open it, include the Rural Economy and Connectivity department.
This is despite several warnings that the SNP will fail to effectively roll out broadband to rural areas.
We’ll leave the rest of the talking on this to Jackie Baillie.
We could ask Jonathan for a response to these revelations but he doesn’t speak to The Democrat which is a godsend really because it spares us from having to listen to him.
Jackie Baillie said: “These figures show just how timid the SNP Government is when it comes to ending Tory austerity. To under-spend by £340 million represents a host of lost opportunities for our communities.
“Our Local Authorities have had massive cuts to their budgets for the last ten years and this is impacting on vital local services yet the SNP are refusing to use the resources available to them to mitigate these cuts.
“Life expectancy in Scotland fell for the first time in 35 years just last week.
“Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers should be doing everything they can to improve the lives of people across the country but instead they have sat on their hands and held on to money which could have made a difference.”
Meanwhile, people here have had to put up with cut after cut in funding for services and to depend on food banks to get them through the week.
And that’s before Universal Credit kicks in here in six weeks’ time.
Instead of fighting this tooth and nail, the SNP have told residents in West Dunbartonshire that they will assist them to fill in the forms to qualify for £2,400 a year less in benefits than they are receiving at the moment.
We have said it before and we have been boycotted and banned for it, but we feel we absolutely must shout it again – Taxi for Jonathan McColl.
Underspending £340m is a scandal when there are so many vital public services under funded and in need of more resources.