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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
15th January 2009

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.

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