Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Lib Dems help build a better budget for Scotland

Well, it just goes to show what a bit of constructive dialogue can do. Learn well for next year, Salmond and Swinney.

Here is an extract from the e-mail leader Tavish Scott sent round party members earlier.

You may remember that I was clear that the Budget proposed by the SNP was not an adequate response to the economic trauma facing Scotland.

Nonetheless, I indicated that our door remained open for discussions. You may have heard that serious negotiations took place over the weekend. As a result, an agreement has been published today that allows the Liberal Democrats to support the Budget.

We made a series of economic proposals to improve the Budget.

We have been working hard to look beyond "tomorrow". Too rarely do politicians think beyond tomorrow's headlines. But the recession is not going to be over tomorrow, or any time soon. So we have been working hard for long term benefits for Scotland.

We were clear from the outset that everything that the Government does should be focussed on tackling the recession that has hit Scotland.

We proposed an Economic Storm Rescue Plan. Our proposals bring triple
benefits: they lock in long term benefits to Scotland and the economy; they will help the Government meet its aims; and they line up the resources for permanent tax cuts for low and middle income earners.

- The SNP have changed their position and will now engage with the Calman Commission. This is the best way to get extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. It will allow, for example, the Forth Bridge to be paid for without jeopardising every other transport project in Scotland. Professor John Curtice told the BBC on Sunday that this concession could be the "most interesting long-term consequence of all of this."
Lord (Jim) Wallace, Liberal Democrat representative on the Calman Commission
said: "I welcome this truly significant and progressive move. As a result of the new position of the Scottish Government there is now assembled a powerful coalition for change."

- The SNP have changed their position on the Scottish Futures Trust. They will now give the quango a funding stream to restart school building in Scotland. Local councils and the construction industry had criticised the SFT for paralysing investment.
Councillor Jenny Dawe, the Liberal Democrat leader of Edinburgh, has welcomed this move. She said today, "A proper programme of support for school building will be a very helpful move. So far, this has been missing from the Government's plans."

- The SNP have changed their mind and agreed to seek a Finance Sector Jobs Task Force to protect the financial services industry in Scotland, which is so important for our economy.

- The SNP have agreed to a new strategic review of Government spending.
This will identify where resources are not being used to support the economy. It will unlock the resources that could pay for permanent tax cuts for low and middle earners.

- The SNP have changed their position and will ask their Council of Economic Advisers to make recommendations on the Budget to help it meet the challenge of the recession.

Not a bad result at all! Even the BBC coverage is all about the Lib Dems. I quite liked the phrase "it is thought Labour will be offered a lesser deal".

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1 comment:

Richard Thomson said...

Appreciate the desire to put the best possible gloss on everything, Caron, but surely, the lesson(s) for the Lib Dems are these:

1. If you genuinely want to have influence, then don't freeze yourselves out at the beginning with completely unrealistic demands.

2. If you are prepared to move from that opening position, then you need to indicate as much, preferably before you're forced into it by Realpolitik. Publicly slating your opponents for refusing to see the merit of your scheme might be a reasonable way of campaigning outside the chamber, but that wasn't what was required in this instance.

3. If you're at all serious about looking to forge a deal, lock Mike Rumbles up in the basement until it's been concluded!

Lessons for the SNP? Despite the rhetoric, under the right circumstances Labour and the Lib Dems are prepared to do business - bear in mind for next year. And expect volatility when dealing with Patrick Harvie, since he clearly likes to refer back to others.

That said, this has been the best possible way forward - a budget which has huge legitimacy, and lessons delivered to all sides not only on the responsibilities of minority government, but also on the responsibilities which come with majority opposition. Democracy, after a fashion, in action.


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