OVERALL satisfaction with key public services has fallen to its lowest level since the SNP came to power in 2007.

The annual Scottish Household Survey found barely half of people were satisfied with health services, schools and public transport last year.

Those content with all three fell to 51.7 per cent in 2018, compared to a high of 66% in 2011, when year Alex Salmond won a majority at Holyrood.

Satisfaction with public transport last year was at its lowest since 2007, with just 65% of people saying they were “very or fairly satisfied”, compared to 69% in 2007 and a high of 76 in 2011.

For the NHS, 81% said they were satisfied last year, the same record low as in 2007, down from 88% in 2011.

While for local schools, 71% or people were satisfied compared to 79% in 2007 and a high of 85% in 2011.

Transport, health and overall satisfaction levels fell last year, while schools edged up from a record low of 70% in 2017.

The Scottish Government blamed Tory austerity cuts imposed by Westminster for the numbers, but said overall satisfaction levels remains very high.

There was a marked difference in overall satisfaction between urban and rural areas, with 59.5% satisfied in the former and just 42% in the latter. 

While satisfaction with health and schools were roughy the same in both, satisfaction with public transport was markedly lower in rural areas (46%) than urban ones (77%).

READ MORE: SNP under fire as public satisfaction in schools, NHS and transport plummets

Overall satisfaction was 51.9% in 2017, in what was then an SNP low.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The findings of the SNP Government's own official survey are unmistakeable.

"People are rightly unimpressed by the SNP's handling of their schools, health and transport services. Satisfaction has nosedived.

“Staff are as frustrated as anyone else and the goodwill of everyone from teachers to nurses has been relied upon for far too long.

“The SNP’s priority will always be independence. The claim that education is the First Minister’s priority is in tatters. Teachers wouldn’t be at their wits end if the SNP had put anywhere near the same amount of energy into making Scottish education the best again."

The survey said a change in attitudes in recent years towards local schools had been the key driver in driving down overall satisfaction with key public services, and followed a doubling in the number of people who were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with schools to 22%.

Tory MSP Liz Smith added: "We didn’t need a household survey to tell us that the SNP has undermined public trust in Scottish schools.

"It has been obvious for some time that teachers and parents have many concerns about SNP education policy.

"Under the SNP schools have too few teachers which has resulted in shortages in key subjects and in additional support for learning where staff numbers have dropped by 26% in the last decade.

"We know too that there is increasing anxiety about the National 4 qualification and subject choice in S4-S6.

"All of this is restricting the ability of our schools to get the best out of the talents of our young people.”

Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray added: “With fewer teachers, fewer support staff, unwanted national tests, rising class sizes and falling pass rates, it is no wonder satisfaction levels in schools have fallen.

“This is not the fault of hardworking teachers and support staff, this is the fault of the Education Secretary.

“Instead of listening to parents, pupils and teachers he has put his fingers in his ears and dismissed any problems brought to his attention. It is past time for Mr Swinney to sit up, pay attention and back our young people and teachers.” 

The survey also included a wealth of statistics on the public’s attitude to transport.

More than half of journeys in Scotland (53%) were made by car or van last year, with 66% of these “single-occupant” trips, compared to 56% in 1999.

Walking accounted for 20% of journeys, down from 26% in 2012, and cycling  was 1.4% last year.

Journeys by train rose from 1.8% in 2012 to 2.6% in 2018, whilst respondents reported making a similar share of journeys by bus (8.0%) as in 2012 (8.1%).

There was also evidence of a shift in attitudes towards greener transport, with 44% of people saying they consider an electric car or van in the future, up from 36% in 2016. Environmental friendliness was the main reason (68%), followed by running costs (58%).

The main deterrent to buying an electric car was “range anxiety”, with 46% of people worried by the travelling distance available on a single charge. 

The availability or convenience of charging points was cited by 41% as a key concern.

The figures also show the gender difference in driving to work has closed, with 63% of men and women now doing it, compared to 60% of men and 48% of women in 1999.  

Concern about climate change was at a record high, with almost two thirds of adults regarding it as an immediate and urgent problem. The greatest increase in concern is among adults aged 16-24, rising from 38% in 2013 to 67% in 2018.

The survey also revealed almost a third of the poorest homes are not online, with 69% having internet access, compared to 99% of households with higher rate taxpayers.

Internet use was universal for those aged 16-24, but only 65% of pensioners were online.

Just over half of adults had taken part in physical activity or sport other than walking in the month before the survey, a level that has been broadly constant since 2007.

Recreational walking of 30 minutes or more was the most common physical activity, with 68% of people taking part last year compared to 57% in 2011.

New questions on people’s mental health found 21% of adults had experienced feelings of loneliness in the previous week. Those in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to do so compared to those in the least deprived areas.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "I am pleased to see the positive trend in the number of households managing well financially in recent years and that the majority are happy with their housing and neighbourhoods. It was also interesting to see those who use our local services report to be more satisfied than non-users.   

“The gap in home internet access is also decreasing and work is ongoing to ensure this continues so that all citizens can benefit from the advantages access to the internet brings.

“Climate change remains a concern and people are clearly worried about the negative impacts it will have. It is one of the Scottish Government’s top priorities and this year’s Programme for Government committed Scotland to lead the way in tackling this global emergency.”

Labour linked the fall in satisfaction with public transport to problems with ScotRail and cuts to bus routes across the country.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “It’s no wonder the public are not happy with the public transport they use, it is being mismanaged under the SNP.

“Rail commuters have had to endure a rip-off fare rise whilst their services have been routinely delayed, overcrowded or cancelled. Meanwhile those who rely on buses have had routes cut and fares soar in recent years. Enough is enough.”

The Scottish Greens said the rise in cars on the road underscored the urgent need to tackle transport emissions and said ministers must do more to address the problem.

MSP John Finnie said: ““We are in a climate emergency, with transport a major factor in Scotland missing its emissions targets last year. Meanwhile, there are dangerously high levels of air pollution in our cities from our roads.

“The Scottish government’s programme for the year did not go far enough. The electrification of northern train routes is basic infrastructure upgrade, and more money for bus lanes just won’t cut it when satisfaction in public transport is in decline.

“Meanwhile, the budget to support cycling and walking has been frozen. Scotland needs a publicly-owned integrated transport network, as we propose in our Scottish Green New Deal, so people have better options than driving to work alone in a polluting vehicle. That means free bus travel, nationalised railways and proper support for walking and cycling.”

SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “We are taking forward a range of actions to help address the Global Climate Emergency and some of the trends in these statistics.

“We are investing more than £1bn in public and sustainable transport each year, the number of rail journeys continues to increase and last week’s Programme for Government included a commitment of £500m for bus priority measures which will reduce the impacts of congestion. 

“Almost two thirds of passengers are very or fairly satisfied with public transport services but we recognise that there is more work to be done by our delivery partners to help address a decline in this area over the last few years.” 

Nicola Sturgeon’s official spokesman said: “Overwhelmingly, people who use local services are satisfied with those. Eight out of ten people who have used their local schools or health service are satisfied with them, which is by any benchmark a high satisfaction rate.”

He denied declining satisfaction with services was linked to support for the First Minister.

He said: “We’ve now had close to a decade of austerity from Westminster which clearly has an impact on the ability of ourselves and local government in Scotland to deliver services.

“So there may be a reflection of austerity in that, but the overriding message from these figures is that people who have experience of using local services are overwhelmingly positive about them. There’s a satisfaction rate of more than eight out of ten.”