Thursday, 5 February 2009

Second time round, the budget passes

And so, with much less fanfare than its defeat last week heralded, the Scottish budget has finally passed the hurdle that the Scottish Parliament debating chamber. And by a wide margin - though not the unanimity that Jeff expected.

The vote passed by 123-2, with everyone bar the Greens on board. And each of those who played along with the Government's new budget got a little of what they wanted in it.

The Lib Dems got a "strategy to boost the economy" and a submission to the Calman Commission, HUGE concessions on John Swinney's part. I jest, of course. It was probably all he could do not to bite Tavish's arm off when he offered that.

Labour got 8,000 new apprenticeships (half of what they had wanted) while Margo (who voted with it last week as well) retained the money she had demanded for Edinburgh.

The Tories got all that they'd agreed before last week's failure to pass it. They also look like a fairly responsible opposition - offering to make agreements before the thing falls apart. When the next election comes to pass (which will now be 2011) I suspect voters might remember this - and the reluctance of both Labour and the Lib Dems to offer support until they deemed it necessary (or prudent?) to do so.

Which leaves Patrick Harvie and his fellow Green, Robin Harper. The voted against the budget again, though this time their vote against it didn't bring the thing down. Ultimately though, despite only being 5 foot 5, Harvie appears to be the biggest loser of this whole episode. Instead of negotiating further when things didn't go their way last week (granted, in the first instance, I think the SNP could have opened the door to Harvie MUCH earlier) they dug their heels in and told the Government where to go.

On some levels, their stance is laudable. The budget is not to their taste, the Government gave them nothing that they wanted, why vote for it? And its a fair point. But I guess the thing is this: they could have had so much out of it. Despite there being only two, the parliamentary arithmatic means that those Green votes can mean the difference between sucess and failure (as we saw last week). To the SNP, they can mean the difference between giving away a little on law and order and business (to the Tories), on capital city funding (to Margo) and on environmental issues (to the Greens) and having to negotiate with Labour and the Lib Dems. And in this instance, I think the Greens may have overplayed their hand slightly... and they've gotten nothing from it.

Don't get me wrong. I think the whole process has ended up as a plague on all the parties' houses (with the exception perhaps of the Tories). I just wonder who will pay for it at the next election. And on that level - and despite this recent poll - I fear for the Greens.


James 5 February 2009 at 14:42  

Thanks, but don't fear for us Greens. We've had a flurry of new membership applications, donations, and a somewhat higher profile now as the only party to stick consistently to the view that the Budget isn't an adequate response to the various crises we face.

Don't get me wrong, I'd rather we'd been negotiated with in good faith, and I'd rather have seen the significant change we proposed go through, but special advisers and the like briefing that we've been "punished" looks pretty brutal and petty.

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