Today (9/2/11) the SNP minority administration passed the last budget before the Scottish parliamentary elections on May 5th.
ConDems Support Nationalists?
With every passing year of SNP the Scottish budget has been subjected to the same political horse-trading. This budget however is special, other than being potentially the SNP's last Budget for a while should they lose the election but also how they passed it.
In the lead up to the passing of the Budget, the general consensus among the media was that the most likely outcome would be Labour/Green Opposition to the bill, Conservative support and the Liberal Democrat abstaining. Though Labour and the Green Party did indeed oppose the Budget (having not achieved any/enough of the concessions they wanted) both the Liberal Democrats and Tories backed the SNP budget (with a few of their concessions picked up)
There have been rumours floating through various articles that the SNP/Tory reluctance to possibly working closer in Holyrood has been weakening. Perhaps the Coalition has presented the Tories with a new found respect for the benefits of Coalition government, and with the potential change to AV voting for Westminster, Coalitions may become the order of business.
It is the Liberal Democrats support for the Budget that is most surprising. Having achieved some concessions they could have simply abstained and allowed the budget to have gone through with Tory support. In the spirit of Tactical Politics here is some Points of Analysis
1) ConDem Bleed Effect - The ConDem Coalition hope to introduce 5 year fixed term parliaments and the Devolved Governments run on 4 year life cycles. As it stand the current Westminster parliament and the Next Devolved governments will all hold elections at the same time in 2015. This ConDem support for the SNP could be a hint at a possible expansion of the Coalition work together until 2015 in both levels of Government. If The ConDem Coalition can do a deal with the Celtic Bloc it would make the implementation of their policies much easier without a Labour-Led Welsh Government and SNP Minority Government making life difficult. This raises another question, if the Coalition is entering Celtic politics, will The Celtic Bloc be joining the Westminster Coalition?
2) Liberal Democrats Election Strategy - The Liberal Democrat leadership is always quick to point out that thye operate as a separate party from the Conservatives, but going into elections having just joined with the Tories to back the SNP's budget, shoots the argument in the foot. While yes, it could be argued that the Liberal Democrats supported the Budget because they achieved the concessions they wanted, surely they could have simply abstained and then have been able to have portrayed the SNP as making the bed for a SNP/Tory coalition after May 5th. This may not have helped the Lib Dem vote recover but it would have damaged the SNP nationalist credentials and perhaps pushed some support to the pro-independence parties like Solidarity and split the votes.
3) Labour and the Greens? - Labour and the Greens may have received either a very late or incredibly early Christmas present. The Scottish Greens have in the past offered a level of support to the SNP, but recently they seem to be arguing more with their Pro-Independence Brethren. With the Election of their first MP and possible collapse in Student Lib Dem support the Greens and Labour could pick up more votes than they normally would. While it is unlikely that the Greens and Labour would enter Coalition, perhaps the Greens will offer a level of support to Labour rather than the SNP. Labour need to use this to their advantage and hit out at the SNP hard, should they come out on top of the May 5th election but lack a majority or a share of the seats in which the support of the Greens or Independents wouldn't give them a majority they will find it near impossible to do anything as it is unlikely the ConDems or SNP would give support without huge concessions.
There are many many things that could be gleaned from the Budget, but one thing is for certain, the Horse-trading has just begun.
Please Comment with any thoughts.