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An SNP first

Brian Taylor | 17:33 UK time, Wednesday, 14 November 2007

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.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 07:15 PM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • slater wrote:

Some in the chamber just did not get it. Perhaps they will once they have studied the budget and concordant papers. Thereafter,if all
representatives at Holyrood and councils put the electorates interests first, then this budget can only get better in final form.
But if party interests are put first, then woe betide them.

  • 2.
  • At 07:41 PM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • Peter Thomson wrote:

Wendy knows all about broken promises, eh, Brian?

Surely Nu Labour being huffy and saying; "Cos it is nae oor ba' we're aw goin' hame." will back fire badly on them. Pat Watter's understands that hence his accommodation with Swinney. McAskill is going to produce 500 more polis than Joke and Andy Kerr managed NHS dentists.(Remember: 1200 new NHS dentists in place by October 2006)

So how will we measure the broken promises? If it is in a simple balance then the weight of evidence of broken promises leans heavily towards Nu Labour.

Me? I think this SNP Government is a breath of fresh air and it is having an impact on UK politics that its one seat advantage over Nu Labour in Holyrood surely does not merit with Tory Central & Libdem suburbia looking seriously at a federal UK as the best solution to the SNP rat in their trough.

  • 3.
  • At 07:46 PM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • John Leven wrote:

Brian

I cannot see Labour abstaining, they will want to remain bitter and twisted to the end.

They think that we all have forgotten the eight wasted years under Labour/Lib dems when our bills went up year after year.

They would do well to have a close look at the interviews on the Scottish News tonight that were conducted in Larkhall (nice to see the BBC still being balanced in choice of location) were for the most part the people interviewed were favourable towards the SNP goverment.

They have lost touch with the people of Scotland and it gets more obvious every day.

Still they must continue to moan because that is what Gordon has told them to do.

  • 4.
  • At 11:32 PM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • John Canning wrote:

Liberal Democrats sharp in the chamber? Hardly. Their leader looked like a wee laddie at the big school play, and fluffed his lines by asking what about 1000 new police officers for each council (ther'd probably be as many polis on Harris as people). Talk about inept. No wonder Tavish Scott sat smiling.

Labour's main line of attack on the SNP seems to be focussing on so called broken election promises. It would be a miracle indeed if a minority administration delivered everything in its manifesto on top of the tightest fiscal settlement the parliament has seen. Indeed it's a dangerous game to play, would Labour actually want the SNP to deliver on all its promises and bring about an independent Scotland. Surely Labour can't have its cake and eat it?

  • 6.
  • At 07:43 AM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Ross wrote:

The London Labour party are bitter in opposition. There is no bones about it, they have been this way ever since May 4th!

The SNP government has impressed me no end by the way it has conducted itself, not to mention its policy initiatives like anti weapons of mass destruction.

Well done Alex Salmond keep up the good work!

  • 7.
  • At 08:30 AM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • HughB wrote:

Brian,

Your descriptions seem to contradict each other.

Remember that this is an SNP budget which is constrained by a Labour party at Westminster. We never used to have any such scrutiny of Labour budgets in Scotland because they were always set out by Westminster anyway. But that's all part of the plan to use negativity to discredit the SNP government. It's not working, because people have longer memories than the previous administration would want.

This budget is a breath of fresh air. The LabLib administration could never have come up with a budget which was in Scotlands interests, because they had to put forward what Westminster wanted.

The sooner the SNP becomes a majority government the better, and the sooner we get control of our own finances the better.

  • 8.
  • At 08:42 AM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • gillon johnstone wrote:

Are we going to be suprised by Labour's reaction or are we going to see the usual spiteful hatefilled rant that we are used to from Labour's front bench.

I expect the latter, experiencing 8 yrs of a Labour executive is a learning curve and the result is Labour just don't care

  • 9.
  • At 10:55 AM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

My god Nicol Stephen was probably the worst I have ever seen him yesterday. I have yet to meet anyone at all who is repulsed by the SNP Government as much as the other political parties seem to be. Most people I know are repulsed at the attitude and vitriol of the opposition parties (not nearly as much with the Tories ironically, the nasty party). I think in the post May 2007 World the LibDems are even more bitter and twisted than Labour. They are positively seething at every step, oozing resentment.

The council tax and business rates cut will win the SNP a considerable amount of votes. I can't see any council deliberately not introducing the council tax freeze and will be made quite clear in local press who is responsible when the rest of Scotland is not suffering any sort of increase.

I thought John Swinney excelled yesterday, in what was probably one of the most difficult exchanges in the Holyrood system.

  • 10.
  • At 01:06 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • HughB wrote:

Brian,

Your descriptions seem to contradict each other.

Remember that this is an SNP budget which is constrained by a Labour party at Westminster. We never used to have any such scrutiny of Labour budgets in Scotland because they were always set out by Westminster anyway. But that's all part of the plan to use negativity to discredit the SNP government. It's not working, because people have longer memories than the previous administration would want.

This budget is a breath of fresh air. The LabLib administration could never have come up with a budget which was in Scotlands interests, because they had to put forward what Westminster wanted.

The sooner the SNP becomes a majority government the better, and the sooner we get control of our own finances the better.

  • 11.
  • At 01:13 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Scotsman wrote:

I watched the budget on Holyrood TV and what struck me was the power of the soundbite. Nicol Stephen got excellent coverage on Radio 4 and Radio Scotland of his soundbite, but for anyone who actually saw his full contribution, he was humiliated by Swinney for his generally bumbling effort. Yet none of this will have made it into the nation's living rooms.

The general vitriol of the Lib Dems towards the SNP is ridiculous, and will not serve them well at the ballot box. It's not clear what the point of the LibDems is anymore. They managed to claim credit for most of the successes of the previous administration, and yet they have volunteered to write themselves out of the picture and now risk becoming utterly irrelevant.

Swinney is in a strong position as none of the oppostion parties can afford to press the nuclear button- political annihilation beckons. Any amendments are easily portrayed as mischievous. If the Edinburgh trams scheme goes wrong, the SNP government won't get the blame. Ditto any amendments to this budget.

Hold on Brian, I voted SNP earlier this year because they made radical promises on which I thought they deserved a chance to follow through.

This budget is an extended middle finger to me.

To turn promises on class sizes into 'aspirations', or to revoke a promise to deliver 1000 police officers to probably a few hundred, is a slap in the face to anyone who voted for them for anything other than old fashioned, sweaty nationalism - which I'd rather hoped they'd outgrown.

To say 'we're not going to propose writing off student debt because no one else will vote for it' is not good enough - we elected them to try.

I have no problem with independence, I just can't stand feeling gullible.

  • 13.
  • At 01:57 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Murdo wrote:

Good one Brian. Very impressed with John Swinney's efforts. An excellent job done with what's available. I have taken a look at the detail. If it was'nt for the Edinburgh trams he could have afforded everything on the list. The deal with Cosla is very imaginative - and so un-Labour! Good to see the Conservatives being measured and constructive in their response. I suppose I can understand Labour's opposition - they are the opposition after all. But can anyone out there tell me just what is the point of the Liberals? Have years of hanging onto the coat-tails of Labour conditioned them to bark every time on Wendy's command? Do they realise what a dreadful impression Nicol Stephen is making with his grating, ever predictable sniping? Can anyone in his party persuade him to ease up and be a bit more constructive? As for Tavish Scott......If they carry on like this they are most certainly heading for oblivion - which may not of course be a bad thing.

  • 14.
  • At 03:26 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • john potter wrote:

The SNP, to their credit were well briefed in advance of the election about the constraints they would face if elected to govern.....but despite this they made promises that they well knew could not be kept.

Is there any wonder that people grow weary and cynical about politics and politicians.

  • 15.
  • At 03:43 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Patrick wrote:

I would just like to commend Brian on his well reasoned and impartial blogs.
I only hope that wendy and the rest of new labour are reading them also!

  • 16.
  • At 04:51 PM on 15 Nov 2007,
  • Murdo wrote:

Good one Brian. Very impressed with John Swinney's efforts. An excellent job done with what's available. I have taken a look at the detail. If it was'nt for the Edinburgh trams he could have afforded everything on the list. The deal with Cosla is very imaginative - and so un-Labour! Good to see the Conservatives being measured and constructive in their response. I suppose I can understand Labour's opposition - they are the opposition after all. But can anyone out there tell me just what is the point of the Liberals? Have years of hanging onto the coat-tails of Labour conditioned them to bark every time on Wendy's command? Do they realise what a dreadful impression Nicol Stephen is making with his grating, ever predictable sniping? Can anyone in his party persuade him to ease up and be a bit more constructive? As for Tavish Scott......If they carry on like this they are most certainly heading for oblivion - which may not of course be a bad thing.

  • 17.
  • At 12:00 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Paying off student is always going to be a non-starter, not least due to the sums involved. Nor is it that popular: why should the taxpay fork out to give students a few thousand pounds per year, plus pay their tuition fees, when a significantly high proportion will not complete their courses?

The SNP has failed to deliver on their promises, which is of little surprise considering that no party has ever delivered what it promised.

Alex Salmond's big problem is that he is basically the SNP, no other MSP has the presence that he has. John Swinney could as easily be mistaken for a quiet civil servant.

Give the SNP their time in Government, but I think it will be their only time.

  • 18.
  • At 05:08 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Ed Gray wrote:

People quite rightly form their individual opinions, but only those with the shortest of memories will quickly forget the catalogue of self-interest, sham, spin and sleaze which has been the hallmark of Labour in government, and for even longer as the dominant party of Scottish politics.

A government fit for the people should be about raising standards and aspirations, encouraging and empowering people with strong, effective democracy, and pushing the envelope to optimise and enable the realisation of new achievements within practical restrictions.

It is heartening to observe the majority of opinion showing faith in the aims and values of the new Scottish government, sensibly recognising that a radical strategy must be rolled out over a period of years, as opposed to within 6 months – against a background of cynical and reactionary sniping from parties whose time in government was singularly uninspiring, who kept the people’s aspirations on a short leash, and who, now struggling to adapt to life in opposition, are seeking to have the parliamentary rules changed in their favour!

The unionist parties have clearly demonstrated, both before and since the election, that they are prepared to use any ploy, including jumping into bed together, to try to oppose or discredit the SNP in order to shore up their own diminishing credibility and crumbling powerbase.

These are surely the early days of a better nation; but there is still a long way to go.

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