Harvie unmoved by Pontius Pilate insult

Patrick Harvie Image copyright PA
Image caption Patrick Harvie remained unmoved by the insults directed at him

Some insults are deftly deflected. They may, indeed, be adopted by the target. I'm reminded that the word "Tories" was originally designed to be sharply abusive.

Now, it is proclaimed with pride by members of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

But some taunts are meant to sting. One such is to compare your target to Pontius Pilate, he who washed his hands and disavowed responsibility for the fate of Jesus.

Precisely this insult was aimed today at Patrick Harvie, the customarily cheerful co-convener of the Scottish Greens.

That particular attack came from Labour's Iain Gray. But others joined in. Indeed, it was open season for lampooning Mr Harvie.

The Tories had a go at his fiscal chumminess with the Scottish government. Willie Rennie of the Lib Dems criticised his party for abstaining in today's tax vote.

And Mr Harvie? He remained unmoved, aloof almost. He readily conceded that the ministerial tax plan was not entirely to Green tastes.

They would have preferred a higher imposition upon higher earners. Hence the abstention.

But they have struck a deal on the wider budget - which involves, inter alia, extra cash for councils plus a promise of longer term reform of local authority finance.

Image caption Finance Minister Kate Forbes gave an assured performance in the tax debate

That package cannot go through unless and until the tax plan is endorsed. Hence, again, the abstention which permits Holyrood to move on to Stage Three of the Budget Bill, on Thursday.

Today was also notable for a confident front bench performance by a relatively new minister, Kate Forbes.

With Derek Mackay smiling benignly at her side, the finance minister argued the case for the tax package, dealing with a succession of challenging interventions.

She tackled Murdo Fraser of the Tories - a powerful combatant, with a deft line in drollery. Ms Forbes countered his assertion that the tax gap with England for those earning more than £27,000 would damage the economy.

She tackled James Kelly of Labour who argued that the tax plan lacked ambition, while the overall budget involved cuts for councils. Ms Forbes chided Labour for failing to produce a fully costed plan of their own.

Overall, it was a good showing by an MSP who is frequently tipped for further advancement.

As to the tax package itself, it will of course be proved by practice. Will potential employees, as the Tories claim, be deterred from moving to Scotland because of the tax system? Will it deter investors?

Or will the fiscal package, as the minister argues, blend productive spending with a balanced approach to revenue raising which protects the lower paid without over-penalising those further up the income scale?