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.