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The Sunday Whip

06/02/2011

Another quiet week – is this Parliament going to end with a bang or a whimper? At the moment, the latter looks likely but there’s still drama to come.

Anyway, there was only one vote on Wednesday and there were 14 absent MSPs: Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton), Shadow Further & Higher Education Minister Claire Baker (Mid Scotland & Fife), Rhona Brankin (Lab, Midlothian, standing down), Aileen Campbell (SNP, South of Scotland), Margaret Curran (Lab, Glasgow Baillieston, standing down), George Foulkes (Lab, Lothians, standing down), Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (SNP, Lothians), Cathy Jamieson (Lab, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, standing down), Conservative Justice Spokesman John Lamont (Roxburgh & Berwickshire), Stewart Maxwell (SNP, West of Scotland), Jack McConnell (Lab, Motherwell & Wishaw, standing down), LibDem Local Government Spokesperson Alison McInnes (North East Scotland), Gil Paterson (SNP, West of Scotland) and Tory Education Spokesperson Elizabeth Smith (Mid Scotland & Fife).

They missed the waving through of the Bureau motions, as well as Stage 1 of the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Bill and the Local Electoral Administration (Scotland) Bill. The only vote was taken on effectively killing off the Non-Domestic Rates (Levying) (Scotland) (No 3) Regulations 2010. The SSI was duly torn up by 68 (Lab/Con/LD) to 46 (SNP/Green/Ind).

Thursday was much of a muchness, and there were 12 absentees: Rhona Brankin, Aileen Campbell, Margaret Curran, Marlyn Glen (Lab, North East Scotland, standing down), Hugh Henry (Lab, Paisley South), Cathy Jamieson, Margo MacDonald (Ind, Lothians), Stewart Maxwell, Alison McInnes, Hugh O’Donnell (LD, Central Scotland), Mike Pringle (LD, Edinburgh South) and Tory Rural Affairs Spokesman John Scott (Ayr).

They missed the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill pass Stage 1 by 114 to 2 (the Greens being the sole opposition), and the unanimous passage of Certification of Death (Scotland) Bill, along with its Financial Resolution.

So, a quiet week, but worry not! It’s only the calm before the storm: this coming week sees the Budgetocalypse brought upon us. Obviously the SNP will vote for it, and we know that the Greens will oppose any budget that doesn’t see people’s wage packets have another hole torn into them, on the grounds that cutting public budgets is the Coalition’s chosen method of punishing the general public and Patrick Harvie has demanded that the Scottish Government punish working people in an entirely different way. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions. Will the Tories support the Government again? Is there enough in the Budget for Margo MacDonald to be happy? Will Labour and the LibDems oppose the Budget for the hell of it (at least the Greens have set out a reason for opposing the Budget other than the fact that it’s an SNP Minister putting it forward) or will they decide to abstain instead?

These questions, and many others, will be answered in the next episode of Soap.

Or, to be precise, on Wednesday evening.

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From → Politics

4 Comments
    • Well, fair play, James, but firstly, where would the rest come from? What other taxes would you raise? And secondly, the Greens were the only party to actually advocate jacking up the tax rate at the exact moment when it would only serve to exacerbate an already grim outlook for working people facing inflationary pressures and the VAT increase. What you were proposing was an across-the-board cut in take-home pay until it turned out that such a move was no longer logistically possible. The bottom line is that regardless of its intentions which are far more noble than most in the Parliament, your party sought to punish the general public for there being a Tory Government at Westminster.

      • Thanks for toning it down a bit, but I still disagree.

        The question is this: is taxing those in work more regressive than cutting public services?

        The people who rely on social workers, occupational therapists, debt advice, etc are disproportionately the poorest, although some are better off.

        The people who are in work are almost all better off than those who are out of work, although obviously there are plenty of people in work who are still in poverty.

        It also remains the case that the SVR stops being progressive only over £44k+, the point when the top rate kicks in. I regret that, but that’s not a reason for not using it and really slashing the services the poorest rely upon.

      • My answer is that yes, it is. The taxation powers available to the Scottish Parliament are far more of a blunt instrument than the spending powers. The cuts to public services can – if politicians on all sides try hard enough – be mitigated with a sensitive approach (i.e. going into this knowing it’s going to cause damage and finding ways to reduce or offset that damage in the best way possible: we’re back to the old idea of the State’s job being to increase the happiness of the citizen, or failing that, to reduce their unhappiness) and innovative solutions. Pushing more people into poverty – which is the guaranteed outcome of decreasing people’s take-home pay might buy some time for public services as they are now, but not enough. So, we have to do what’s being done now and try our best to help people through it. Yes, it’s going to be ugly, but the bad decisions taken by the last UK Government, and the notion of, as Patrick Harvie puts it “European public services with American tax rates” has come back to bite us and we have to do something. My worry is that just jacking up the first tax you can find isn’t going to be anywhere near enough (and may exacerbate the problems) and we’ll end up with American public services at European tax rates.

        But more to the point, I think that the Greens’ current approach is self-defeating: if the Budget falls, the SG is stuck with a spending plan made for when it had far more money available – which means that in the next Budget put forward, the cuts will be far worse… especially as the SG does not have borrowing powers yet. It’s 2009 all over again: then, the Greens had reasonable justification for rejecting a Budget that didn’t give enough support to a worthwhile project. The outcome of that was that even less support was given to it in the end. In 2011, the Greens have at least set out principled grounds for rejection – opposing the cuts – but reject this Bill and the next one, especially if it comes on the other side of the Election, will necessarily be worse for everyone. Do you want to travel that way again?

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