An SNP first
It was historic. It was mundane. It was wide-reaching. It was narrowly focused. It was the SNP’s first budget in power.
You can read the details elsewhere on this site – but let’s consider the key issue of whether John Swinney can get this budget through Holyrood.
Remember, remember that this budget in November is the start of the process, not the end. It has to be endorsed by MSPs.
To do that, John Swinney needs to reach out to other parties. He has already, of course, reached out to local authorities.
Let’s talk about that deal with councils first. It is remarkable in its scope.
Councils get more money (although not much more) – but, crucially to them, they get flexibility as to how to spend it.
That gives them status – and the ability to respond to local circumstances.
And the freeze? Cosla will recommend it – but it’s up to individual councils to decide. Some will, some may not.
In any case, the deal only lasts for one year – with an option (and government money available) to extend for a further two years.
But how about reaching out to other parties? Action on the environment might impress the two Greens. (It hasn’t yet, entirely – but it might.)
Action to cut business rates is in line with the SNP strategy of growing the economy – but is also aimed at wooing the Tories. My guess? The Tories will say yes – IF they get the business rates cuts accelerated and action on other areas like tackling drugs.
Don’t see Labour endorsing the deal under any circumstances – although I suppose they might, ultimately, abstain if the prospect is that the entire Budget falls. But that’s looking too far ahead.
And the Liberal Democrats were notably sharp on the budget in the chamber. They too will look to alter the present shape of the package in committee.
Overall? A good day for John Swinney. He got the excuses in first re police and class sizes, he owned up frankly on graduate debt – and he grandstanded well when required.
But more, much more to come.