Rising costs, staffing problems and savings targets are piling pressure on services.
Darling To Leave Commons Next Year
Former chancellor Alistair Darling has announced that he is to stand down as an MP at the next general election.
In a parting shot, Mr Darling, who led the Better Together campaign in the Scottish independence referendum, threw his weight behind Jim Murphy to become Labour's new leader in Scotland.
"Jim has the enthusiasm, the energy and above all he's a fighter. For too long we have sat back when we needed to fight,'' he told the Financial Times.
Mr Darling, 60, the MP for Edinburgh South West, was one of only three cabinet ministers to serve continuously throughout the years of the last Labour government from 1997 to 2010.
When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, he was given the post of chancellor and swiftly found himself at the eye of the storm with the collapse of Northern Rock and the subsequent global banking crisis.
His leadership of the cross-party Better Together campaign from 2012 was criticised in some quarters for being too negative, focusing relentlessly on the economic risks of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.
He surprised some, however, when he got the better of SNP leader Alex Salmond in the first of their two televised debates in the run-up to the referendum vote, although the Scotland First Minister was generally perceived to have outperformed him in the return match.
In his interview with the FT, he expressed exasperation that since the vote in September support for Labour in Scotland has collapsed while there has been a surge in support for the SNP.
"My frustration is that we actually won,'' he said. "You can't say it often enough. We made the arguments, we had confidence in ourselves.''
Former foreign secretary David Miliband paid tribute to Mr Darling as "a gentle giant of politics: high on integrity, low on ego''.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Darling was a man of "values, decency and kindness'' who had distinguished himself as an "extraordinary public servant''.
"From helping to get people back to work and tackling poverty, to building industrial prosperity, Alistair was a minister who showed both conviction and competence,'' he said.
"He can also take pride that as chancellor he helped steer our country through the worst financial crisis to hit the world in living memory. His was a calm head when calm heads were needed.
"When he could have left frontline politics, he took on the role as chair of Better Together. He will always be remembered for leading and winning that campaign, and keeping Scotland in our United Kingdom.''
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: "Many would have opted for a quiet life after serving as a cabinet minister and chancellor during the financial crisis. Alistair Darling's legacy will be stepping up to lead the fight to keep our country together, and winning the argument for fairness, solidarity and working together across the UK.
"For almost three decades, Alistair has served his constituents in Edinburgh with passion and dedication. All of us in the Scottish Labour Party owe him thanks for his years of public service.''
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