LOCAL authorities have borne the brunt of SNP Government cuts over recent years. Since 2013/14, they have cut a cumulative total of £6 billion from council budgets – costing jobs, cutting services and hollowing out communities.

With the 2023/2024 Scottish Budget set to be published on December 15, councils will be waiting anxiously to see what their funding settlement looks like. The cross-party council leadership body, COSLA, has already warned that some 6,000 jobs could be axed.

Over the last 10 years, East Lothian has had to manage some £40 million of cuts to its funding, despite being one of the fastest-growing areas in Scotland. It has had to deliver major new housebuilding and significant other new infrastructure, such as schools and roads.

Just last month, the council held an unprecedented special meeting to consider the funding situation and budget mitigation measures needed to get through to the end of the financial year.

Given this dire financial backdrop, it is remarkable that East Lothian Council has managed to sustain its delivery of such high-quality frontline services, with the cuts managed in a way that has largely avoided directly hitting service users.

Unlike many other authorities, Labour-led East Lothian has not closed schools, libraries or other facilities.

It has also prioritised vital services like education and social care, as well continuing to implement plans for tackling poverty and the cost-of-living crisis.

However, it is now increasingly clear that any further funding shortfalls will make it all but impossible to avoid damaging cuts that could inflict real long-lasting harm.

I hope John Swinney and his colleagues will step back from making more cuts to councils for the year ahead and provide the funding needed to protect services and support communities.