Jings, the Budget passed
Stage 1 of its Parliamentary journey with a stonking majority; 107 to
16. It was just a couple of weeks ago that some commentators were
saying that the budget would fall and the Scottish Government would fall
with it. On the basis of that result, however, it looks like the budget
is still alive – and the Government too. There’s a fair distance still
to go, but that’s a healthy level of support.
I couldn’t understand the
Lib Dems, though, they brought forward a proposal for a 2p tax cut
(which would cost £800 million) but never identified where they would
make the cuts to Scotland’s public services – they even claimed to have
costed ‘unexpected Barnett consequentials’ as part of the payment for
the tax cut without ever answering how you can factor that income into a
forward projection when it is, by definition, unexpected. When John
Swinney refused to accept their plan for a tax cut on the very
reasonable basis that it would be barking mad to just leave Scotland’s
service providers £800 million short of what they need to operate this
year, the Lib Dems stomped off in the huff and refused to play, voting
against the budget instead.
It’s a bizarre and quite
exceptionally daft position for them to be in generally, but I wonder
how they intend to explain to their councillors who are in the
administration in Edinburgh that they voted against the Capital City
status that would help the council pay for the extra things that are
needed in the capital because it’s the seat of Government and
Parliament. Two of the Lib Dem group actually represent Edinburgh
constituencies – Mike Pringle in Edinburgh South and Margaret Smith in
Edinburgh West – how will they explain it to their constituents?
The Lib Dems have quite
clearly failed to think it through, but that’s their problem and I’m
quite happy to leave them with it.
The budget itself does
quite a lot, it’s John Swinney doing what he can to protect Scotland
from the some of the effects of the depression we’re heading into.
There’s another freezing of Council Tax – although the councils have got
to agree it as well – and another cut in Business Rates for small
businesses to help them survive so they’ll be able to thrive when times
get a bit better.
There are capital
projects coming forward, extra money for schools, colleges and
universities to build with, extra money for teachers, sorting out
teachers’ pensions as well, and more money for affordable housing – just
a few of the highlights.
The vagaries of political
life, though, I’d be scheduled to speak in the debate on Health Board
elections on Thursday, was asked early in the week to switch to the
budget debate, so had to prepare another speech, and then got pulled
from the budget debate a couple of hours before I was supposed to get to
my feet. No speech at all this week after all that!
I’m about to head home
now and prepare for the first of six Burns Suppers I’m at this year.
I’m speaking at five of them and the first one is the Hamilton Golf Club
on Saturday, and since I’ve got constituents’ meetings tomorrow and
during the day on Saturday, I’d better get my jokes polished tonight.