The deal is on
As of this evening, we have at Holyrood the clear outline of a deal to allow the SNP to get their very first budget through the Scottish Parliament.
To reach that next level of financial stability, John Swinney has a range of options.
He can ask the audience: mustering public opinion behind his plans. He can go 50/50: compromising on aspects of his package in recognition of the Scottish Government’s minority status.
But, above all, he can phone a friend. He can win support from another party in order to ensure Holyrood backing for his plans.
And the emerging friend? The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Isn’t politics wonderful?
The evidence for this? The finance committee report which provides valuable advice aplenty to ministers and parliament - but, in the final analysis, only suggests two firm changes to the budget.
MSPs want to enhance police recruitment - and they want to accelerate cuts in business rates. Those are key Tory demands. Advanced in the committee by Tories and backed by SNP members. Suggested Labour changes were all blocked.
John Swinney now says he will look closely at the committee’s recommendations. But, if he can find a way of giving ground on those key issues, he could be close to securing Tory votes when parliament as a whole delivers its verdict on the Budget Bill.
The Tory rationale? It’s in line with their standing strategy that they will seek to gain support for as many of their objectives as possible, that they are prepared to collaborate in order to secure their policies.
Labour says, scornfully, that the Tories have sold out cheaply, that they’re doing a deal without firm promises of action from ministers.
Sour grapes, say the Tories. There will be no agreement without precise pledges.
My estimation? The deal’s on.