Are Scotland's public services being run well?

An increasing number of Scots say they are unsatisfied with the way services like the NHS are being run.

Scottish Household Survey: Are Scotland’s public services being run well? Getty Images

The number of Scots satisfied with the quality of public services has seen a huge decline in recent years, according to a major new study.

The latest Scottish Household Survey has revealed just two out of five adults are happy with the quality of their local health services, schools and public transport.

In 2019 a majority (53%) said they were pleased with them but figures for 2022 show that has fallen to 40%.

That compares with the 66% of people who were satisfied with all three key services in 2011 – the highest level recorded since 2007-08.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the “Covid pandemic placed many of our public services under great strain”, adding that this had “had an impact on public confidence”.

Figures show satisfaction in public services is well below pre-Covid levels.Alena Kravchenko via iStock

Looking at satisfaction with public services, the number who are happy with healthcare, schools and public transport in their area is said to give an indication of the “overall quality of public services”.

But the report notes that “satisfaction with public services was generally higher prior to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, said 16 years of SNP failure had left “every Scottish institution weaker”.

“An NHS at breaking point,” she said, “schools declining, and public transport falling apart.

“The SNP and the Tories together have taken a wrecking ball to both our economy and public services and people across Scotland are paying the price.”

Tory MSP Liz Smith said: “It’s not surprising that there should be increased dissatisfaction with these services, since the SNP’s years of underfunding and neglect are coming home to roost.

“People are well aware that the stagnant growth and mismanagement of SNP ministers has created a black hole in Scotland’s finances – and they see, too, the effect it has on frontline services such as health, education and transport.”

The comments came as individual satisfaction levels for local health and education services, as well as public transport, all fell compared to 2019.

Then, four fifths (80%) of those who surveyed were happy with the quality of local health services, but by 2022 this had dropped to 64% – with more than a quarter (26%) dissatisfied with health care in their area.

Meanwhile, the proportion of people satisfied with the quality of local schools fell from 73% in 2019 to 69% in 2022.

And, for public transport, the satisfaction rate went from 68% in 2019 to 58% in 2022, with the latest research showing almost a quarter (23%) were dissatisfied.

Satisfaction with the three services combined was also found to be higher in the least deprived areas – where it stood at 44% – compared to the least deprived areas, where only 38% were satisfied.

When looking at trust in institutions, the survey found more than half of people expressed a degree of trust in the Scottish Government – with 10% saying they “trust it greatly”, while 45% “tend to trust it”.

However, one in five (20%) “tend to distrust” the Scottish Government, the research showed, while 17% “distrust it greatly”.

A majority of Scottish households expressed some degree of trust in the Scottish Government.STV News

Just over a fifth (21%) of people said they “tend to distrust” local government, with 11% saying they distrusted it greatly, compared to 6% who “trust it a great deal” and 53% who “tend to trust it”.

The health system was the public institution with the highest level of trust – with a quarter of people (25%) saying they trusted this a great deal, while 54% tend to trust it.

Meanwhile, 16% said they greatly trusted the police, with a further 63% saying they tended to trust them.

However, when looking at the wider justice system, including the courts, lawyers and prisons, trust levels fell with 11% trusting this group greatly and 54% tending to trust them.

Scottish Liberal Democrat communities spokesperson Willie Rennie said there was “an overwhelming feeling that Scotland is on the wrong track under the SNP”.

Rennie said: “Ministers are distracted by their obsession with independence or, frankly, not good enough at managing complex and demanding public services.

“Patients in our NHS and pupils in our schools deserve better.”

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the UK Government was failing to provide Scotland with the funding it needs to deliver its public services.STV News

Somerville said “delivering efficient and effective public services” was one of the Scottish Government’s “three key missions”.

She complained Westminster had “failed to deliver the investment needed”.

The social justice secretary said: “The NHS, social care, schools and childcare remain our focus as we continue to work to improve living standards, to reduce poverty and to support high-quality public services.

“However, Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution as a result of sustained high inflation and a UK Government autumn statement that failed to deliver the investment needed in Scotland’s public services.

“This is on top of the combined impact of a decade of austerity and economic mismanagement by the UK Government and the economic damage of a hard Brexit.”

Somerville added: “To truly transform our economy, society, and public services we need the powers of independence.”

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