A deal has been struck between the SNP minority administration and the Scottish Greens to get the budget passed. Some SNP supporters had criticised the Greens for not immediately signing up to the budget but insisting on some compromises that they can accept as the price for their votes. It’s unfair to criticise a different political party for being a different political party. No one criticises the Conservatives for being a different party with different policies. We criticise them for being cruel and heartless basterts who only care about high earning motorists and the financial interests of disaster capitalists.
The Greens have their own agenda and their own priorities. But unlike certain other parties represented in Holyrood, they are prepared to be reasonable and are prepared to compromise. Concessions were made by the SNP on local government funding, and a firm commitment and timetable given to look again at the long standing proposal to replace the council tax.
Compromise isn’t something that the Lib Dems understand. What they do understand is foot stamping and dummy throwing. Wullie Rennie has been acting like he’s only just discovered that the SNP want Scottish independence, after having noticed an SNP independence poster on a lamppost in Cowdenbeath on the number 17 bus route to Kelty. Wullie then made the ridiculous precondition of refusing to support the Scottish budget, any Scottish budget, unless the SNP drop their commitment to independence. That’s like the SNP refusing to support some Lib Dem policy unless Wullie drops one of the defining and core policies of his party, like proportional representation for Westminister elections, or telling big fat lies during elections.
The Tories spent the budget debate harrumphing. Admittedly that’s what they do all the time anyway, so no great change there then. They’re taking a cue from the behaviour of their colleagues in the House of Commons, where the government’s policy in dealing with Scotland consists of braying loudly and shouting insults over the top of whatever it is that a non-Conservative Scottish MP wants to say. There’s that respect agenda for you, but the truth is that the only things that the Tories respect are the monarchy, landed estates, and hedge funds.
The Tories in Holyrood are upset that no one is thinking about those poor high earning motorists or disaster capitalists. It’s difficult for the Conservatives to work themselves into a lather about the underfunding of public services, because they want to privatise them all. That doesn’t stop them however. Not even although it’s a Conservative government in Westminster which ultimately holds the purse strings and so forces any Scottish government, irrespective of which party is in power in Holyrood, to pass on Tory austerity. If the Tories got their way there would be tuition fees, there would be a charge for prescriptions, no free primary school meals, no free care for the elderly, and parking charges at hospitals. That’s the same Tories who are now complaining about a small tax on large businesses who offer free parking to employees.
Murdo Fraser got very upset about the lack of consideration shown in the budget to his colleagues who own vast tracts of the Highlands. Murdo Fraser’s intervention caused hilarity, which is what Murdo is best known for, as MSPs pointed at the landowners and lairds sitting beside Murdo on the Tory benches. The SNP’s Roseanna Cunningham laughed so hard that she fell off her seat. Literally, not figuratively. But it was still an achievement for Murdo. The small bruise on Roseanna’s backside is the biggest political impression that Murdo has ever made.
Murdo was just the comedy warm up for the main comedic turn, which would be the Labour party in Scotland. Labour doesn’t want Scotland to control its own finances either, but that doesn’t stop them from insisting that the fixed budget of Holyrood is “SNP cuts”. Labour has fought tooth and nail to prevent Holyrood having substantial tax raising powers of its own. It has set its face against allowing Holyrood to have meaningful borrowing powers. It has fought for a Holyrood which is entirely financially dependent upon whatever Westminster chooses to allot to it, but it still insists that cuts to the Scottish budget are “SNP cuts”.
Prior to the debate, Labour’s deputy leader Alex Rowley had proposed to the SNP that Labour could support the budget provided there was a substantial increase in the funding for local authorities. The problems were twofold, firstly the proposed increase would mean a 3% reduction in every other aspect of the Scottish budget except the health budget – 3% off education, care for the elderly, mitigating the bedroom tax and all the rest. And secondly Alex hadn’t spoken to Richard Charisma Leonard about it, who slapped the overture down as soon as he heard about it. The very last thing Richard wants is anything that might deprive him of the chance to complain about how bad the SNP is.
Not that he had any proposals of his own. Labour wants an increase in the amount allocated to local authorities, which would indeed be grand. They’re just not willing to say how it should be paid for. This, remember, from a party that has done its utmost to restrict the ability of Holyrood to raise its own funds.
Not to be outdone, Neil Findlay managed to email his speech to everyone in Holyrood. Again. Some people shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard, never mind entrusted with the power to change laws. You can’t budget for stupid.
The attitude of the British nationalist parties in Holyrood today is mirrored by their colleagues in Westminster. That’s why we’re getting the disaster of Brexit. But the good news is that unlike Westminster, the British nationalists are a minority in the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood was able to find a way forward. And for that small mercy we should be grateful.
In other news, pro-indy blogger Jason McCann has been targeted by the British nationalist media and smeared as an apologist for IRA violence. I have met Jason. We do not agree on everything, but I do know that he abhors violence. Jason is a Christian pacifist, the strongest and most defining characteristic of his politics is his commitment to non-violence. He is not now and never has been an advocate of violence in the pursuit of any political goal. He most categorically does not support a return to violence in Northern Ireland, nor does he glorify in, celebrate, or justify, the death of anyone, from any side, in the violence which has so tragically disfigured Northern Ireland in the past.
The words of Jason’s which were seized upon by the Daily Mail came from his attempt to explain to readers in Scotland how a breakdown of the Good Friday Agreement because of Brexit and the UK government’s pandering to the DUP would be perceived by hardline Irish republicans in Northern Ireland. His words were a warning of the risks of a return to violence, not as has been falsely claimed by the Daily Mail and other British nationalist media outlets in Scotland, an advocation or justification of a return to violence.
That same media is now attempting to use the comments made by Jason and taken out of context by the Daily Mail, that bastion of truth and balance, as an excuse with which to beat up the SNP. Calls are now being made for the SNP to “sever links” with Jason. He is not now and never has been a member of the SNP and has never sought to portray himself as a spokesperson for the SNP. There are no “links” to be severed.
The demonisation of Jason McCann is yet another instance of the desperation of a British nationalism which is threatened like it has never been threatened before – threatened by the shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies of a British state risking a no-deal Brexit. When we start taking the words of the Daily Mail as our moral arbiter, we’ve already lost.
Update, 8.15pm : It’s worse than I thought. The Scotsman has printed a piece about Jason in which it strongly implies that he is a Holocaust denier. This is nothing less than grossly defamatory. Jason not only fully accepts the historical reality of the Holocaust and does not dispute that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews, he has in fact published an academic paper examining the workings of the Nazi death machine. His paper details how in one death camp alone, in the space of a few short months in 1944, the Nazis were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people from the Jewish population of Hungary. It is entitled The Mechanics of Murder, the Systematic Murder of Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The paper is online here
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