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Money talks

Brian Taylor | 15:44 UK time, Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Question: will the minority SNP administration get their Budget through? Answer: yes.
Question: will it be purely the SNP’s Budget that gets through? Answer: no; mostly, but not entirely.

The word here at Holyrood is that politicians from all sides are searching for a deal on finance. Doesn’t mean it will be easy – but does mean it has momentum behind it.
To backtrack a little, John Swinney will set out his proposals next week for allocating the cash devoted by the Treasury to Scotland. You’ll recall the lengthy debate about whether the deal is fair or stingy.
But Mr Swinney’s statement is a new beginning for the process – not the end. At Opposition prompting, there will be plenary debates in the chamber. As usual, there will be close scrutiny by Holyrood committees.

The finance committee takes the lead – and will sum up progress in January - but I understand subject committees have also recruited budgetary experts to advise them on the detailed implications for health, education, justice and the rest.
This will be serious, testing stuff – not a shouting match. Only Ministers can propose amendments to the Budget bill. But the committees will undoubtedly offer suggestions.
To repeat, John Swinney does not have a majority in Parliament. To get his bill through, he has to contrive a coalition. To contrive that, he will have to give ground at certain points to opposition politicians.
Labour, the Tories, the LibDems, the Greens all have a shopping list. But, of course, as by far the largest opposition party, Labour’s perspective is key.

Right now, I assess their strategy as being constructive – rather than confrontational for its own sake. In essence, they and the other opposition parties want to be able to claim that they have shaped the Budget Bill to their ends. They want to be able to claim it, in part, as their own.
Before all that, though, John Swinney needs friends in local government. Councils are responsible for much service delivery, notably education. He’s meeting Cosla tomorrow.
I understand he’s offering them a greater percentage slice of the Scottish spending block – plus an enhancement of their somewhat diminished status. Key to that is shrinking the quango state.
In return, Cosla may be able to recommend to member authorities that the council tax should be frozen.
But it’s still looking very tight for key SNP policies such as extra police officers and smaller class sizes in the lower primary years.


  • 1.
  • At 03:57 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • HughB wrote:

Of course Labour will have shaped the budget, because they are in control of how much money Scotland gets.

Talk about insider dealing!!!

  • 2.
  • At 04:30 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Ewan, Edinburgh wrote:

Encouraging, is it not, that at least this shows where parties can work together under the current system of Government in Scotland. All bodes well for the evolution of our processes and undoubtedly towards constitutional development/change. If that means independence, so be it - we should have confidence in democracy and our ability to run sensible forms of self-government....

  • 3.
  • At 04:54 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Scottish Politics wrote:

On the contrary Brian. Are you seriously suggesting that Labour, the Lib Dems or the Tories would scupper an SNP budget and therefore be responsible for countless people not being paid, for charities not getting desperately needed money etc?

If they do this then they have a political death wish which the Scottish public will surely grant them.

  • 4.
  • At 07:17 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Jim Thompson wrote:

Hi Brian,

Sensible article.

It is on the cards that the SNP will blame inabilities to deliver their promises on the tightness of the CSR.

Why has no newspaper or media source ever set out how much Scotland is to receive for the three years and how much SNP said they would need in the run up to the election to fund it.

If you or anyone else doesn't accept that then tell me so we will all know.

To date all discussion has got bogged down in arguments over percentages and baselines but as any accountant will tell you that comes after not before we have the raw data.

If the answer to the second question is that SNP refused to provide an amount - either aggregate or year on year- they should be invited to do so now. If they refuse again they should be asked why.

That is surely not too much to ask. Or is it?

  • 5.
  • At 10:25 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • John wrote:

extra police officers AGAIN !!!

But the bottom line is Brian that the SNP will still be in business and last the 4 years, albeit with a modified budget, though no doubt they too have their red lines.

The most important aspect for the SNP is to be able to demonstrate to the people of Scotland their ability to govern well.

Secondly they will make sure the facts about Oil and Gas emerge in detail, from the International Treaties which designate the area of the sea and all that's in it that comes under Scottish Law, i.e. the Continental Shelf jurisdiction Acts, Geneva 1964 ratified London 1968.

The lies told by Westminster to play down the value of the revenues, this will be spearheaded by the suppression of the McCrone Report and thirdly, comparisons with other Oil rich countries, in particular Norway with it's 170 Billion Pound Oil Fund compared to Scotland's Oil Fund £0.

Once people have had time to digest and debate those facts we will have the referendum on Independence.

  • 7.
  • At 07:38 AM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

OK, here's a question.

If the SNP can't meet their manifesto pledges due to lack of money will they say it is:

a) Because they messed up (and that's being charitable) their costings and made pledges that couldn't be afforded.


b) Because everyone else (opposition parties and Westminster) conspired against them (and by extension - Scotland) to squeeze the budget.

I bet the answer will be b) even though they knew in advance that the budget was going to be tight.

  • 8.
  • At 12:47 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • peter wrote:

Well here's another question. The SNP have already had one of their key manifesto pledges voted down by the unholy alliance, remember the Trams?

I think it's a bit rich that the 'union coalition party' are complaining about the SNP not fulfilling manifesto pledges when they clubbed together to vote the trams through.

I also believe that Wendy new exactly what the budget was going to be long before the Scottish Government did.

  • 9.
  • At 01:01 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Lets wait and see whats in the budget.

I myself am dissapointed with the Lack of police officers, however it was a case of trams or police officers, I would have choosen police officers, like the majority of people in scotland not living in Edinburgh. Obviously the Tories, Lib Dumbs and Labour prefer trams trundling through Edinburgh To fighting crime in places like Dundee or Glasgow etc. Not surprised at Lib/Labs backing the trams it was their idea. But the tories played fast and loose with their No1 Tough on Crime policy when they voted for trams to put the present government under Financial and political pressure.

  • 10.
  • At 01:45 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

Good article Brian. I notice that supporters of the opposition parties are criticising already something they haven't seen yet. For me, I look forward to a budget of imagination and ambition, sadly something that was lacking in the 8 years of Labour/Libdem government. Even though it is a tight allocation and the opposition parties pushed through a wasteful tram scheme (not to mention Ross Finnie "miscalculating" £40m), we will still see what a Scottish based party can do in Government.

Ian, yes everyone knew in advance that the budget was going to be tight. What most people did not expect, however, was that Scotland would get its worst share of tax revenue since Thatcher was in power.

  • 12.
  • At 03:26 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Shaun Harvey wrote:

The SNP will hopefully realise after this budget that nobody expects the administration to solve all Scotlands ills in one fell swoop and by implying that they could they were only ever going to end up in a mess. As it is we will see a decent budget - Below what the SNP promised but better than, what the opposition parties will claim as, a betrayal of their manifesto. Now that Scots have seen an SNP administration will not cause the sky to fall in on their heads it will be unnessecary to repeat this mistake.

  • 13.
  • At 03:30 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

David (11),

The budget is still larger than last year AND Scotland still gets more per capita spent on it than elsewhere in the UK.

All that's happened is the balance is being adjusted.

If everyone got the same percentage increase then the *difference* between Scotland and elsewhere would have increased. If you try and keep the difference the same then Scotland (by dint of having more to start with) gets a lower rise.

I don't have a problem with that really.

I also don't have too much of a problem with some of the SNPs policies but I'm not prepared to write them a blank cheque for them and I wouldn't expect Westminster to either.

Let's see what the Budget says and how it is presented.

  • 14.
  • At 04:54 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Dave "Boy" wrote:

It is a tad hypocritical for the SNP to talk about a "squeeze". For 2 reasons...

First of all, the SNP's own manifesto commits to 1.5% "efficiency savings" off the revenue budget. They clearly believe they can make these savings and I hope they do. However - are they seriously going to deliver these savings whilst simultaneously blaming Westminster for not giving them enough money in the first place? Can't have it both ways.

Secondly, in real termsafter taking into account inflation, they have a budget increase. In plain English, they have more money to spend than the previous 2 administrations. They therefore have more choices about what to spend the money on.

What comes out in the budget remains to be seen. But if the SNP are unable to fulfil all their manifesto pledges, then that is as much to do with the volume of uncosted, populist policies that they put in their manifesto.

  • 15.
  • At 05:13 PM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • Tam McGowan wrote:

Can anyone imagine Denmark having to set its annual budget, but first having to get the money from Sweden.

Yip its about as stupid and pathetic as that. Grow up Scotland, manage your own affairs!


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