09 Feb 2011

Congratulations are due to John Swinney for getting all four of his budgets through the Scottish Parliament. As Nicola Sturgeon has said, “over four years the SNP has shown we can work with all parties to deliver a council tax freeze for Scottish families, 1,000 additional police on our streets, and the small business bonus for Scotland’s businesses”.

Highlights of the budget included:
• Abolition of prescription charges;
• Continuing the Council Tax Freeze;
• Maintaining 1,000 additional police officers;
• Creating 25,000 modern apprenticeship places;
• Continuing educational grants – EMAs (being cut in England);
• Extending the living wage of £7.15;
• Continuing the small business bonus scheme (i.e. no rates from small businesses);
• £16 million further investment in housing.

Effectively Labour have voted against all of these!

Some people had thought that a minority SNP government would be easily defeated in the annual budget process. But John Swinney has proved them wrong. He has been prepared to negotiate and take on board good ideas from all other parties. After all, this is how the Scottish Parliament was always meant to work. Instead of dictatorship by one party, Holyrood operates so that two or more parties are required to work together. Surely that is a good thing? It means we are more likely to get decisions which have broad support, both across the parties and amongst the wider population.

Yet Labour voted against the budget. Was it because they had some disagreement in principle? Or was it because they had better ideas about how to use the reduced amount of money Westminster has given us? Perhaps it was neither of these. Perhaps it was because it was an SNP budget and Labour don’t like the SNP. How petty the Labour MSPs can be!