Despite Labour’s ‘political posturing’, the SNP and Greens show Westminster how to do ‘grown-up politics’

Richard Leonard at the Labour Party Conference
Brian Finlay

On 31 January, the minority SNP-led Scottish government secured a deal to pass its budget. The Scottish Green Party (SGP) agreed to back the budget after securing seven concessions. The previous SNP leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, said:

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And SNP staffer Olaf Stando has accused Scottish Labour of ‘political posturing’ over its disengagement with the budget process:

James Kelly, Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson, avoided giving answers during the budget debate. When pressed by Derek MacKay, the Scottish government’s finance sectary, Kelly gave no detail of proposed tax increases to fund Labour demands during an intervention.

Political posturing

On 30 January, the National revealed that Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard ‘slapped down’ one of his MSPs. MSP Alex Rowley had offered to work with the SNP to try to deliver a progressive budget. This suggests Scottish Labour’s leadership may have been unwilling to work with the SNP all along. This entirely supports the SNP’s political posturing allegations.

The Scottish Lib Dems were also unhelpful, refusing to negotiate unless a second Scottish independence referendum was ‘paused’:

But what Indyref2 has to do with education, mental health, and council funding in the context of the 2019/20 budget we’ll never know.

Most noteworthy, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives also ruled out support unless Indyref2 was taken off the table. Very immature politics from the parties that want Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Conservatives refused to give support to the SNP budget for other reasons too. It may ‘shock’ some readers, but it was because the Tories refused to support a deal that will lead to the “highest income taxes in the UK”. But under these proposals, 55% of taxpayers will be better off.

“Long term package of local tax reform”

SGP’s co-convener Patrick Harvie took to Twitter to share a brief overview of the SNP-Green deal:

As reported in the Guardian, the SNP-Green deal includes “impressive” concessions ranging from:

  • Additional funds of £90m for local councils.
  • The opportunity for councils to raise their own funds – via workplace parking charges and a ‘tourist tax’.
  • Lifting the council tax cap from 3% to 4.79%.

Harvie also said:

Scottish Greens will always be firm but constructive in these situations. Scrapping the Tories’ council tax and giving councils more powers is a historic victory. All parties now have an opportunity to help bring about a fairer system of funding essential local services. On top of recent reforms to income tax, today’s deal shows yet again Scottish Greens are leading the change, making Scotland the fairer country we know we can be.

But he also criticised the Scottish budget process. Harvie slammed the SNP’s “down to the wire” negotiating tactics. He also said, “the outcome for Scotland would be better if all political parties took their responsibilities more seriously”.

“Significant empowerment of local authorities”

In his statement to the chamber, MacKay said the SNP-Green deal:

will deliver the most significant empowerment of local authorities since devolution and provide additional funding to support local services. This enhanced package offers up to £187m of increased funding and flexibility to councils, on top of the £11.1bn local government settlement. In total, overall spending power for local authorities next year will be £620m higher than it is currently.

MacKay also stated that councils could raise an additional £47m through the increasing the council tax cap. This is something the SNP didn’t want to do prior to the deal.

As reported by the BBC, the president of COSLA, an umbrella group for Scottish councils, Alison Evison said “while challenges still remain” councils “are now in a better place then we were with the original budget proposal“.

In this instance, grown-up politics prevailed. But it’s clear from the behaviour and lack of engagement from pro-UK parties that they had no intention of striking a deal with the SNP. Demanding the SNP drop Indyref2 was a cop-out. And the Scottish electorate knows it.

Featured image via Labour Party/YouTube

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