Scotland's budget: closer to consensus

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Media captionPatrick Harvie says he and the Scottish Greens would not be willing to see emergency cuts happen

Wee bit more on the Scottish budget. Not there yet - but it is looking increasingly likely at Holyrood that there will be a deal between ministers and the Greens.

Certainly, the pervasive gloom of previous days has lifted somewhat in ministerial corridors. Again, not there yet - but closer.

However, the emerging shape of the deal could bring added controversy if, as expected, it leads to an additional tax levy upon higher earners by contrast with original plans.

Any prospect of a deal with the Liberal Democrats seems to have evaporated. As billed here previously, the Lib Dems wanted to extract a sizeable price for backing the SNP, the party of independence.

They wanted around £400m in spending on mental health care, education, police and Northern Isles transport. They were offered around £70m. So no deal - although talks are still continuing.

And the Greens? They want extra spending on public services, in particular to ameliorate the cuts in cash for local councils. Remember the ministerial insistence that the money for local services has gone up.

But they were also arguing that this money could be provided, in part, by levying additional taxation upon higher earners.

Again, the final deal isn't there yet - but it seems at least possible that ministers may have to concede something on tax, as well as spending.

The total deal with the Greens will be worth more than the £70m on offer to the Lib Dems. Perhaps around twice that figure?

'Highly dangerous'

The SNP has been under pressure from Labour over local government cuts - and may relish the opportunity to offer a partial rebuttal. However, they are highly unlikely to crow, given the relative parsimony which persists.

Tax too could be politically contentious. Today, Liz Cameron of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce warned against further moves to increase the differential between tax in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Such a move, she said, would be "highly dangerous" - and could act contrary to Scotland's interests in potentially depressing already sluggish growth.

Expect that message to be translated into political rhetoric by the Conservatives. The Tories offered to cut a deal with the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay - but only if he would "drop his plan to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK."

This was not a serious attempt at negotiation: the Tories know it will be rejected. Rather it is constructing a narrative upon which to build if the tax take in Scotland is increased.

As I write, it seems pretty unlikely that there will be an increase in any of the income tax rates in Scotland. What might happen - I stress, might - is that the threshold for the higher 40p rate is held down still further in Scotland, obliging folk to pay that higher rate on a lower income than in England.

More to come but, tonight, the election campaign preparations are back on hold.

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