Scotland, we have a problem..

Scotland’s minority SNP government, led by First Minister Alex Salmond, has failed to get this year’s budget passed after a tied 64-64 vote saw Presiding Officer, Alex Fergusson [added link], cast his deciding vote against the motion. It appears that last minute efforts to sway the two Green Party MSPs failed, whilst the Conservatives voted with the SNP along with one Independent. On his blog BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor discusses the rights and wrongs of an opposition voting down a budget, and ends up on the fence. I’d have thought they had every right to do so, if they can. But will the opposition hold? And if so will Salmond resign? Probably not, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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  • jeer

    salmond reisgn, a snap Scotland election would surely see SNP do well surely and maybe enough to get the majority.

    I follow Scottish politics reasonably close but not enoiugh to guess that optioion.

    Dont see that its a resigining matter especially with the tories backing the budget

  • Salmond has already moved to Stage Two: threaten the minority parties and independents with a General Election.

    This, of course, is from the Standard Operating Manual for Dáil Éireann. It is usually effective because the fringe lot are invariably short of the readies (unless, as is the current Dáil convention, their mouths have been stuffed with gold).

    Whether those fringe groups (OK: the two Greens and Margo, who has already been suborned by the look of it) go for it, depends on their reading of those figures that show SNP Scotland faring worse in the down-turn than the rest of the UK.

    Meanwhile, may I relish the delicious irony of the Scots Tories siding with Salmond and Swinney in their argument that:

    “These tough economic times demonstrate yet again the imperative of pushing ahead with the spending plans in our Budget Bill, which will accelerate £230 million of capital spending in the next financial year, supporting nearly 5,000 jobs.

    “They demonstrate that we must all work together for the good of Scotland.

    “Now is not the time to allow political differences to derail these important measures for our economy.”

    Not very Cameroonie, is it?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The convention in other places is that the Presiding Officer/Speaker casts his vote on the side of the government. I’m surprised that this convention seems to have been violated here.

  • Comrade Stalin @ 08:50 PM:

    Not so: the convention is that the Chair/Presiding Officer uses a casting vote to preserve the status quo. So, on a vote of confidence, the casting vote goes in favour of preserving the administration.

    In this case, the proposal was to change the 2009-10 Budget Bill, allowing for a total spending of £33 billion.

    Since the rules allow the SNP administration until mid-February to get a budget, there is no constitutional issue involved in this vote.

    Meanwhile, we should gasp in wonder at the sheer incompetence of the SNP.

    To quote from a key source:

    The SNP first bought the Tories 17 votes. It cost £60 million for city-centre regeneration. That’s a smidgeon over £3.5 million a vote. Annabel Goldie seems to have been easily satisfied.

    At some stage, Margo Macdonald was brought on board the good ship Salmond. Her stated price was money for housing in Edinburgh, in effect the lion’s share of the £20 million to be divided between Edinburgh and Glasgow. During the budget debate, John Swinney said he had given her what she asked for — whatever that means. Either way, she didn’t sell her honour as cheaply as La Goldie’s.

    Then the SNP had to buy the two Green votes of Harvie and Harper. The opening bid was £22 million for home insulation. Or £11 million a vote. Which suggests even more that Annabel Goldie had obliged the nice gent for a bargain price.

    The SNP conceded that — only to find that the Greens had upped the ante. The going-rate was now £33 million. A vote was now worth £16½ million.

    The SNP agreed that again — no humiliation too great — , by which moment the Greens now also requiring the Holyrood budget to underwrite any shortfall at local council level. The Greens were talking of a total commitment of £100 million a year: £50 million a vote.

    Even the pliant SNP choked on that.

    So, at least in the short-term, the two Green votes went walkabout.

    All of this in full public view of television, reporters, the public gallery …

    To think, too, that the two Greens are not directly elected: they’re only there as a consequence of the “top-up” lists.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Malcolm, thank you for that correction. I did a bit more reading which corroborated what you said. Put a little better, the Speaker votes to allow the House to continue the debate later; to vote with the government here would have terminated the debate.

  • I have to say my impression was the same as Comrade Stalin’s initial one but having read the Wiki entry on Speaker Denison’s Rule, the fact that the failure of the Budget of Scotland does not bring down the government freed the Presiding Officer from the obligation to preserve the govt and thus vote for the bill. It may be that if there is a tied vote at the deadline for the budget to be implemented, his vote would go the other way.

  • ABC

    So the Tories voted with the Nationalists, how very Unionistof them.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Well ABC I am glad to say how very SCOTTISH of them. Not having a natural right of centre party(well apart from new labour) that is tarnished in the eyes of the electorate by slavish devotion to a foreign country. The Tories are definetly missing a trick here. Some of their intellectuals have grasped the concept, London or electability in Scotland. You cannot have both.

    Malcolm is of course correct regarding the greens, they are ripping the pish. The last time the SNP threatened to call an election Labour shat it as they are skint. However perhaps they imagine that post Glenrothes that Billy Britain Brown is now so popular, and Scots so idiotically fickle that we will vote them into their heavenly ordained position of power controlling the jock fiefdom for England.

    In the words of a much lamented previous Labour leader “Bring it on!”

  • Harry Flashman

    When oh when will the SNP call the bloody referendum so that Scotland can just piss off and join Iceland or wherever?

    I mean we all know Scots are desperately keen on independence so it would be a walk in the park wouldn’t it? So why don’t the SNP get on with it? Why don’t they just call the referendum now?

    What? You mean the Scots have been gurning for half a century but in truth they’re only blethering and really don’t actually want independence?

    No, say it ain’t so.

  • Prionsa Eoghan


    Dear dear Harry shocking sweeping attack on your fellow loyal Brits who also happen to be Scots also.

    [Play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Harry Flashman

    Eoghan, after that comment you wrote about my wife I wish to have no further interaction with you whatsoever. I just about put up with your personally offensive remarks about me because I’m a big boy and I can take it, but under no circumstances will I allow anybody to abuse the mother of my children in such a disgusting manner.

    Do not reply to me, I wish to have no further dealings with you at all.

    (Moderator, thank you for deleting my response to the racist trash that was posted about my wife, my apologies for the intemperate language I used but given the circumstances I hope it can be excused)

  • Harry Flashman on Jan 29, 2009 @ 02:56 PM

    Hello, again, Harry: long time no mutually-insult. And a happy New Year to you, too.

    The simple answer to your pertinent question is that the SNP is riven by an ideological split.

    On the one hand are the “fundamentalists”, who would take just your advice and go for broke. What is the point of an SNP if it’s not a truly separatist party? All the opinion polls suggest a huge plurality of the English agree with that position.

    On the other hand are the “gradualists”, the Home Rulers, who believe that it is possible incrementally to achieve independence. Meanwhile, of course, it’s a case of doing the Oliver Twist act [“Please, sir, can I have some more?”] as regularly as becomes indecent at Whitehall.

    At the moment the second group, under Salmond, are in control. That’s another reason why there was some surprise that Margo Macdonald (who, with her husband, Jim Sillars, is of the other persuasion) came across with her supportive vote.

    If (or, to be more realistic, when) the wheel cames off this abortion, there will be a reappraisal, and a return to basics. It won’t be this time, I guess. The most likely scenario is that the two Greens are bought off: they won’t get their full hundred million, but they’ll have had their moment in the limelight. The LibDims and Tories have been nailed into their coops: those chickens are well and truly home to roost.

    Watch, too, the Tories wriggling. They are profoundly uncomfortable in cahoots with Salmond. The Tory vote in Scotland is down to 12-14% ( I haven’t seen a reliable poll later than last autumn). The last thing the Cameroonies can afford is another wipe out north of the Border: but, after all, why vote Tory, when you can vote Tartan Tory? Time is running out to strike a distinctive image before the Euro-elections. Then, because of the appalling performance last time round, Labour will actually be gaining seats across the UK.

    After a very thin time (two lost leaders in quick time) Scottish Labour seems to be making a fist of it. They have nothing to lose in the present kerfuffles. At a time of rising unemployment, they can be holier-than-thou and say they wanted a phalanx of new apprentices financed from this budget. That’s a bit more human than home insulation or CBD renovations. And it’s another reason why everyone else is taking shots at Iain Grey and Andy Kerr. And, of course, if Labour were out of power in Westminster, Holyrood is where local young ambition will find its ladder: a lot of the new generation are already calculating just those odds (blades are being honed).

  • Greenflag


    ‘blades are being honed).

    You mean dirks 😉 From the gaelic Scian Dearg (Schkeen Darug ) the dearg being Albanised to Dirk . An indispensable tool for any rising Scottish politician as Shakepeare noted with Mac Beth .

  • Greenflag

    oops I forgot

    Scian Dearg = Red Knife


    Duine Dearg ( Dinneh Darug ) = Red fellow 🙂

    The ‘dearg ‘ in this case does not I believe indicate any political preference 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    PE and Phil,

    Red card each!

  • Greenflag on Jan 29, 2009 @ 05:38 PM:

    My Leaving Cert Irish j-u-s-t about copes with that.

    For the record, in his travesty of the worthy MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh, an Rí Dearg, Shakespeare uses “sword” (15 times), “blade” (3 times, but once it refers to grass) but “dirk” nary a once. So, sorry, I have to fault you on that.

    On the other hand, there are so many things wrong with the text of Macbeth (missing scenes, inserted scenes, a whole slew of anachronisms — chiming clocks in AD 1040, for heaven’s sake!) this is pedantic triviality on my part.

    As you say, the one thing consistent across all factions in Scotland is unspeakable loathing for all fellow members of one’s own party. Nowhere was it more true that the Opposition is over there, and all your enemies are behind you. Nowhere north of Sicily is feuding a way of life (and beyond).

    None of that will stop this little bit of political froth being blown away in the next fortnight. Then it’s back to normal hostilities.