Thursday, 14 January 2010

Opening gambits

The New Year diet has barely started but Jeff is already getting stuck into the Scottish budget stuff. Which is probably still more than some at the Scottish Government are doing.

Remember last year? The Scottish Government thinking the thing was locked down, the late negotiations with the Greens - and the resultant collapse of the process on the deciding vote of the Presiding Officer.

So, in the midst of a continuing economic recession and with a General Election anything from 3 to 6 months away, what price the same happening again? Opposition parties in Scotland bringing down the Scottish Government over their budget. Likely? Not in my book.

Jeff has already done the number crunching - and estimates that the Tories and the Greens will provide enough support for the SNP to get their budget through. I suspect he may be right. But maybe it isn't the final result that is interesting this time - its how we might get there.

I can't see Labour lending their support - not with their position on GARL. But they may enter into negotiations, which is more than they have in the past. The Tories, on the other hand, may play a slightly bolder hand than they have in the past - try to get more value for their vote on the basis that their position is likely to be strengthened in negotiations next year by being the UK Government. I'm with Jeff on the Lib Dems - ask Mystic Meg what she thinks they'll do, because there's really no predicting it (but I'll come back to that). Which leaves the Greens.

Now, I have some sympathy for the way they were shafted in last year's negotiations (not that I showed it at the time - a year is a long time in politics after all) but I reckon they will have learned much from it. They are, if nothing else, a year older and a year smarter. Which means 2 things: 1) if they don't get what they want, they don't vote for it (take note Mr Swinney) and 2) it is important not to bank on their vote without first offering something they want. However, with their sister party in England and Wales primed to win their first (ever) Westminster seat at the next election, any perception that Green parliamentarians are immature or reckless may harm those chances. This may play a part in how they approach negotiations.

The Green position, curious though it is, leaves the door open for the Lib Dems. If the Swinney/ Salmond combo can get the Greens on board, then they can ignore Tavish Scott (which is what they thought they'd done last year). If they can't, they'll have to persuade someone who really doesn't like them (and that, I think, is an understatement) that they can do something for them.

Ah, partisan politics. Let the games begin.

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