MSP blasts government’s SEPA budget cut

Hawick MSP John Lamont has hit out at the Scottish Government over its plans to cut the budget of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) by six per cent, or £2.4million, in the next financial year.

The agency is in charge of Scotland’s flood-forecasting and risk management and issues flood warnings and runs the Floodline early warning system.

The news comes as the Scottish Government admitted it will not be setting aside extra money for tax relief for homes and businesses affected by recent flooding in the Borders.

In a letter to Mr Lamont, the Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP said tax relief will be paid for out of the £4million the Scottish Government has received as a result of extra spending by the UK Government. This is in stark contrast to the approach south of the border, where tax relief money is in addition to spending to help councils meet general reparation costs.

Mr Lamont condemned the SNP Government for failing to support the clean-up operation in the Scottish Borders and has raised the concern that SEPA’s budget cuts will put flood forecasting in the Scottish Borders at risk.

He said: “Given the scale of damage caused last year in Hawick and elsewhere in the Scottish Borders, it is a very short-sighted move by the SNP to be slashing SEPA’s budget.

“Many residents rely on SEPA’s Floodline early warning system and these cuts will put this and other vital services at risk.”

The Tory parliamentarian continued: “Unfortunately this isn’t the only example of the Scottish Government shortchanging the Borders. After I asked for clarification from the Finance Secretary, it was disappointing to learn that the Scottish Government will not be providing any extra money for tax relief for homes and businesses affected by flooding.

“In England and Wales, 5,000 properties have had their tax bills written off. In Scotland, the SNP have chosen to take money from Council’s clean-up budgets to pay for tax relief instead of stumping up the money themselves.”

Hawick SNP MP Calum Kerr could not be contacted for a comment on our story, while local SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse’s office did not respond to our request for a comment.