Friday, 6 February 2009

Unionist support for the Holyrood budget

All the unionist parties in Scotland have now crawled on board and passed the SNP minority government’s budget. Scottish Conservatives had already joined nationalists in support of the package’s first reading. Liberal Democrats and Labour MSPs have since extracted enough concessions to secure their backing, leaving only two greens opposing the budget in a subsequent division, following its initial one vote defeat.

Each party has done exactly the same in this instance. Annabel Goldie’s Conservatives found Alex Salmond and his finance minister John Swinney immediately receptive to their preconditions. The Tories therefore voted with the government at the first time of asking. Labour and the Lib Dems had their concerns addressed only after inflicting a narrow defeat on the SNP.

The truth is that no party believes that Scotland would benefit if they were to force an early election, or render unworkable the current administration at Holyrood. In the teeth of recession, with Labour weak, pro-independence sentiment waning and Conservative revival in its nascent stages north of the border, precipitating a crisis would have unpredictable results, both for the parties and for the country.

The current minority arrangement has its attractions for both government and opposition MSPs. With power delicately balanced each party has a degree of leverage. Through horse-trading and negotiation it is possible to exert influence incommensurate with a party’s representative strength. From Salmond’s perspective, he can claim credit for every perceived success the Scottish government enjoys, and blame every perceived failure on recalcitrant unionist parties.

Ultimately, however, a regional, nationalist party governing a majority unionist area of the United Kingdom will have a baleful influence on coherent politics there. Witness Salmond’s attempts to paint the illegality of SNP local income tax proposals as a consequence of ‘English colonialism’. It is an attritional, divisive brand of governance which will necessarily take its toll on the fabric of Scottish political life.

Although none of the national parties yet feel that the time is right, eventually the nationalist menace must be confronted.

21 comments:

fair_deal said...

"Annabel Goldie’s Conservatives found Alex Salmond and his finance minister John Swinney immediately receptive to their preconditions. The Tories therefore voted with the government at the first time of asking."

For the second year in a row.

If a deal can be rationalised with a nationalist party then there are no grounds for not agreeing to a deal with other unionist parties.

"The truth is that no party believes that Scotland would benefit if they were to force an early election, or render unworkable the current administration at Holyrood. In the teeth of recession, with Labour weak, pro-independence sentiment waning and Conservative revival in its nascent stages north of the border, precipitating a crisis would have unpredictable results, both for the parties and for the country."

So there are occasions when not allowing a full democratic choice can be rationalised.

Chekov said...

"If a deal can be rationalised with a nationalist party then there are no grounds for not agreeing to a deal with other unionist parties."

A deal to vote on one issue is very much different to a deal to stand down candidates. One is part of every day political cut and thrust, the other implies tacitly that the other party's policies are compatible with your own.

"So there are occasions when not allowing a full democratic choice can be rationalised."

Scotland has a majority system which has thrown up a minority administration. There are no intrinsic accountability problems on the scale of what we suffer in Northern Ireland.

Of course you know all this.

O'Neill said...

I'd tend to take the idealist/unrealistic line on pacts with separatists, nevertheless I though this from David McLetchie was funny:
"The Next best thing to a Tory Government - is a Government which does what the Tories tell it to."

fair_deal said...

"A deal to vote on one issue is very much different to a deal to stand down candidates. One is part of every day political cut and thrust, the other implies tacitly that the other party's policies are compatible with your own."

LOL A budget is not 'one issue'. Budgets are not passed every day They are a centrepiece of governance.

They are surely more compatible than a nationalist party.

"Scotland has a majority system which has thrown up a minority administration."

However, rather than make arrangements with other Unionist parties to enable them to form a minority government (a SNP minority government was not inevitable) and gaining comparable concessions on the budget from them the Scottish Tories prefer propping up the SNP. Intersting choice and priorities.

Anonymous said...

Fair Deal thinks the DUP are a unionist party! LOL
Just because you wrap yourself in a Union flag doesnt mean you are a unionist. The DUP is the antipathy of unionism - narrow minded, parochail and bigotted. Determined to keep NI in a scetarian prison

fair_deal said...

"Anon"

Self-serving caricature to claim a non-point. No single party (or person) has the monoply on Unionism or its definition. The ability for Unionism to be embraced by a cross-section of parties has been one of its strengths.

fair_deal said...

"Anon"

"the DUP are a unionist party!"

Two further points. Let's accept your exclusionary and delusional logic and the DUP is not a Unionist party.

The Conservatives have made clear that that would not be a barrier either to making a deal as long as they get something out of it. With a pact they would most likely get an MP out of it so.

Also if the new UUPCon partnership must not be sullied by narrowness, parochialism or bigotry will Jim Nicholson make that position clear in the upcoming election? He wouldn't want transfers from narrow parochial and bigoted voters would he?

Chekov said...

The Conservatives do not have a pact with the SNP or any other nationalist party. The Conservatives have a pact with Ulster Unionists. Once again FD, you're fully aware of this, but you're determined to compare things that are not alike.

fair_deal said...

"The Conservatives do not have a pact with the SNP or any other nationalist party."

Voting two years in a row for the SNP budget is not fly by night arrangements. Both times saying an election, democratic choice, should be avoided and which you yourself justified "The truth is that no party believes that Scotland would benefit if they were to force an early election"

Additionally you seem to be developing selective amnesia as you attacked any relationship between the DUP and SNP in their ministerial roles.
"It is appropriate that Ian Paisley is spending his last day as First Minister cuddling up to fellow UK regional nationalist, Alex Salmond."
http://threethousandversts.blogspot.com/2008/06/posturing-sinn-fin-threaten-election.html
"In forming an alliance of convenience with Alex Salmond"
http://threethousandversts.blogspot.com/2007/06/dup-confused-about-northern-ireland.html

Yet active alliances between the SNP and Tories are permissible as long as it avoids an election.

"The Conservatives have a pact with Ulster Unionists"

And they have annual pact/deals/arrangements with the SNP.

"Once again FD, you're fully aware of this, but you're determined to compare things that are not alike."

The making of a deal with another party is perfectly comparable. Pact/deal whatever is a semantical distinction you are trying to maintain as the Conservative decisions contradict the ideological objections offered to a deal/pact/arrangements with the DUP.

Chekov said...

FD,

One is a formal arrangement whereby the aim is to transfer support from one party to the other, one is a vote which the party happens to make alongside another party. There are times when Conservatives vote in the same fashion as Labour (the second Scottish budget is just one example) and no-one would dream of suggesting that this is a pact or a deal. Two enitrely different incomparable situations.

fair_deal said...

"There are times when Conservatives vote in the same fashion as Labour (the second Scottish budget is just one example) and no-one would dream of suggesting that this is a pact or a deal."

Why bring Labour into a discussion about the Conservatives and SNP. This wasn't a 'time'. This was a deal. A deal which followed direct talks not a casual wandering into the lobbies. A deal two years in a row. IIRC Last year Labour didn't back the budget, the only major party consistently voting with the SNP on the budget is the Conservatives.

BTW Cameron has also announced he wants to be very good friends with Salmond.
http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/david-cameron-moves-centre-stage-in-devolution-debate/

Chekov said...

No. He hasn't. Brian Wanker says he has, but Cameron says,

"our support for this budget will in no way diminish our vigorous opposition to the SNP."

yourcousin said...

Chekov,
Talk is cheap and politicians say a lot of things, many of them contradictory. Fair Deal is right, the Tories are right now in bed with the SNP. But it makes perfect sense when viewed outside of your "nationalist/unionist" and viewed within the prism of the Labor/Tory battle.

Look Cameron will go anywhere and say anything that will help him become PM. He is especially concerned about the fringes of the island as he's been pegged as a little Englander for so long (and I think he is one IMO). So if and when Cameron takes the helm of government he wants to be able to point to a mandate from all over Britain and Northern Ireland. Scotland gives Cameron a chance to keep Labor out, and offer proof positive of not being a little Englander, which is ultimately more important to him than any rhetoric about the union.

FD,
No single party (or person) has the monoply on Unionism or its definition

then what was the OUP about then?

fair_deal said...

Chekov

"No. He hasn't. Brian Wanker says he has, but Cameron says"

The quality of Brian's blogging can't be blamed this time. The Scotsman is pretty explicit and the relationship Cameron is seeking to make and has ALREADY started.

"DAVID Cameron pledges today that as prime minister he will end the cross-border war between the UK and Scottish Governments, and insists he will introduce a new "maturity and respect" for Scotland.
The Conservative leader, writing in Scotland on Sunday, says if he is installed in 10 Downing Street, he will insist on far closer relations between the two administrations than has occurred under Labour.
And he reveals that SNP ministers and Tory shadow ministers have begun talks to discuss their potential roles, with discussions between Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and shadow chancellor George Osborne having taken place."

"our vigorous opposition to the SNP."

I didn't say he was supporting independence. I said he wanted to be "very good friends" with Salmond. How will the SNP fight off such vigorous opposition as keeping them in power and sorting out 'illegal' policies.

Also talking about possibly more powers to Scotland doesn't look like Cameron has a plan to deal with the constitutional problems New Labour has created rather he is carrying on along the same path.

Yourcousin

"then what was the OUP about then?"

The comment was in a UK wide basis and the OUP was wrong f it believed it had such a monopoly.

Chekov said...

"Look Cameron will go anywhere and say anything that will help him become PM. He is especially concerned about the fringes of the island as he's been pegged as a little Englander for so long (and I think he is one IMO)."

Absurd. Cameron stands to make a lot more politicl capital by playing the Little Englander card. Equally it would benefit the Tories not to have Scotland within the Union. His unionism is genuine. He is actually taking risks in order to emphasise it.

FD - highlighting reports of the article rather than the article itself is desperately poor. Surely you can do better than that?

Forming a workable relationship isn't the same as being good friends. This strategy is not even dependent on the SNP being in power or specific to that contingency.

I don't agree with devolving more powers to Scotland, but I can see where Cameron is coming from. Labour has created the hand he has to deal with and pragmatically it isn't going to be possible to roll back devolution. He plans to get on with making it work as well as possible in the interests of the Union. Engaging with the Scots' government is part of this strategy.

fair_deal said...

Chekov

"highlighting reports of the article rather than the article itself is desperately poor. Surely you can do better than that?"

So the Scotsman is now playing games instead of Brian Walker offering a poor analysis? The Tory media operation would give a major opinion piece to a paper that would then significantly misrepresent them?

Those pargarpahs summarise what Cameron says in his article for exmaple in the article he says "Think of David Mundell's letter to the SNP offering talks about the funding of the Forth Road Bridge. Members of our shadow cabinet have also had meetings with members of the SNP cabinet, such as George Osborne's meeting with John Swinney last year. I want to see more of that."

It was hardly a gross misrepresentation of the Scotsman to say "he reveals that SNP ministers and Tory shadow ministers have begun talks to discuss their potential roles, with discussions between Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and shadow chancellor George Osborne having taken place"

"Labour has created the hand he has to deal with and pragmatically it isn't going to be possible to roll back devolution. He plans to get on with making it work as well as possible in the interests of the Union. Engaging with the Scots' government is part of this strategy."

On the Labour mess we are agreed but I think the constitution issues need something a bit deeper than we'll talk and smile.

yourcousin said...

Absurd. Cameron stands to make a lot more politicl capital by playing the Little Englander card

Why would Cameron need to make political capital off of the Little Englander movement when he already has their vote? Look at the English locals, it's a blue tide. But that hasn't been enough to put him over the top in the generals so he expands. That's hardly absurdity, I would call it logic. And something you dodged from my first post.

Equally it would benefit the Tories not to have Scotland within the Union

As for Scotland leaving the Union. Hypothetically that may be, but the person who loses Scotland, loses. Right now Scotland is the best thing that happened to the Tories as Labor is disintegrating and all Cameron has to come in and do is to twist the knife. I doubt Cameron would like to see Scotland go whilst he can still use it to beat Brown about with.

His unionism is genuine

I will give this to you Chekov, you don't believe in things half heartedly, but the fact that your beliefs are genuine doesn't mean that Cameron's are anything close.

He is actually taking risks in order to emphasise it

Please explain as I thought both parties were vying to be pro-union? But I would agree that trying to bring Trimble back from the dead (or at least the House of Lords) does entail a considerable risk.

Chekov said...

"Please explain as I thought both parties were vying to be pro-union? But I would agree that trying to bring Trimble back from the dead (or at least the House of Lords) does entail a considerable risk."

You haven't followed a lot of the press coverage following Cameron's deal with the UUs then?

It is all very well having a healthy cynicism, but implying that no statement of belief by a politician can be taken seriously is bordering on infantile.

Whether Cameron is going about defending the Union by the best means possible there are very few people calling into question his genuine unionism.

"Right now Scotland is the best thing that happened to the Tories as Labor is disintegrating and all Cameron has to come in and do is to twist the knife."

You think that the biggest stick Cameron can beat Labour with is Scotland? I can assure you that that's not a common perception.

"So the Scotsman is now playing games instead of Brian Walker offering a poor analysis? The Tory media operation would give a major opinion piece to a paper that would then significantly misrepresent them?"

I provided the link to what Cameron actually wrote. Nothing within that article sustains in any respect the contention that he wishes to become 'very good friends' with Salmond or his administration.

yourcousin said...

It is all very well having a healthy cynicism, but implying that no statement of belief by a politician can be taken seriously is bordering on infantile

"Can be" and "should be" are two different things. It wasn't so long ago that you were unsure of his committement to the Union. You'll pardon me if I take the long view and wait for his actions once he's in government before I draw a fuller view of his beliefs. Cameron hasn't even been through one election cycle on his "Union" ticket so you'll excuse me for being skeptical. Remember Bush ran on "no nation building" in 2000 and look where we are now. Thinking that politicians will say anything if they think it will help them and hurt their oppoenents is not infantile, it's called common sense. Also, my blog starts with the word "misanthropy", healthy cynicism doesn't even begin to cover it.

You think that the biggest stick Cameron can beat Labour with is Scotland? I can assure you that that's not a common perception

Not nessecarily the biggest stick, but one that was very handy.

You haven't followed a lot of the press coverage following Cameron's deal with the UUs then?

Unfortunately I've had to curtail my online readings due to the house and now the baby, but I read you so that has to count for something.

Chekov said...

Well I can assure you that he has been roundly panned for it in many quarters.

Look, I speak as someone who has had the advantage of listening to the man and of speaking to various people who are behind this. I have no doubt whatsoever that Cameron is a conviction unionist.

How that plays out, how much he prioritises that position remains to be seen. But the instinct is most definitely there.

yourcousin said...

Chekov,
Couldn't the same thing be said of Brown?