'RAIL commuters came back after the New Year break to find that fares have been increased by over 3% which is pretty incredible given the ongoing decline in train services being experienced by most.

I noted that Fife SNP MSP’s got together at a railway station to get their photo taken making a statement that things must improve. This was ironic given that only weeks earlier they had voted with the Tories in the Scottish Parliament against using the break clause in the contract to end the contract and bring ScotRail into public ownership.

Perhaps if they were meeting the cost of their travel to work from their own pockets like most Fifers have to do they would realise that more bolder action is needed than a photo opportunity and that these privatised contracts are not working and should be brought to an end.

I for one am not giving up on getting this break clause used to end the contract as the failures of ScotRail are not acceptable and we need to bring the rail services into public ownership and use the profits to invest in services. I will also continue not to claim expenses for my travel to work given that the majority of taxpayers who work in Edinburgh don’t get their fares paid.

The Scottish budget will be examined by committees and be debated in the Parliament in the coming weeks. Yet again, the SNP Government has passed austerity plus onto local councils, local services and local communities. Fife Council is getting a cut in the core grant of 1.6% which amounts to just under £10 million, and this will put even greater pressure on services that are already underfunded. This impacts on schools, youth services, home care, the third sector and so much more. The SNP have told the council to put its council tax up by 3% which no doubt they will do to try and protect the most vulnerable so you will be paying higher bills for less services. This is why we desperately need a change in approach to the way local services are funded.

I was surprised this week to learn that the most recent figures published by HM Revenue and Customs, and confirmed by the Scottish Parliament information centre, show that £210million worth of child tax credits have gone unclaimed in Scotland. Families should check to see if they are entitled to this support'.