Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ending the budget chaos

What would it take for the Scottish Lib Dems to back the new budget that the Gnats will be putting before the Scottish Parliament, following the rejection of the original yesterday?

Caron has already given one answer and that's certainly something worthy of consideration. But I would like to throw something else into the discussion, which I think would be equally beneficial.

It looks like we're not going to get the 2p income tax cut we proposed, but that doesn't mean we should abandon all ideas of doing something to help the economy. Looking at our manifesto from the 2007 elections, I see lots of good ideas in there which would help Scottish businesses through these difficult times.

For instance, we proposed doubling the support available to small businesses and setting up a fund to help small community retailers. Progress towards that would certainly be an option to win Lib Dem support. Combine that with a return to 2007 levels of funding for Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise and I suspect the Gnats might well be close to a deal.

There are other options as well: progress on our long-term target to treble research and development or the WiFi Towns and Cities Fund mentioned in the manifesto would certainly be possibilities. And ending the proposed cuts to bus and train transport in Scotland, which I highlighted in a previous post, should certainly be on the table.

But all this requires the Gnats to stop their posturing and arrogance and really make an effort to reach consensus on a budget which does something for the Scottish economy. The budget they proposed was so inadequate to the task that rejecting it was the best choice for Scotland. Perhaps now they will be ready to recognise their minority status in the Scottish Parliament and work with others on a budget that meets Scotland's needs.


Richard Thomson said...

Bernard - somce reasonable ideas in there but with the best will in the world, you'll catch more flies with honey than you ever will with vinegar.



Stephen B said...

Bernard, I forget the detail of this but if the Scottish Executive lowers income tax, don't they get less in the block grant from Westminster (and conversely more if they were to raise taxes)?

If that is the case, then, not having the powers to issue debt to cover any shortfall, isn't the drop in income from lowering taxes going to have to be come from present public spending?

Don't get me wrong - I'm in favour of tax cuts and I'm glad the Lib Dems are calling for them but I'm not sure how the books balance in this situation and what the political fallout would be.

Wifi towns? I think this kind of experience from the US is pertinent and, anyway, GPS is poised to be the data connectivity solution of the future (and it works in remote rural mountainous areas like the Highlands). In other words, nice idea but I suspect it could be better spent.

You'll know from our conversations that I'm a critic of the SNP/Tory idea of splitting some of HIE's functions off to councils. I think some councils are poised to take on the role very well but I fear that many are not.

Also, how is a small retailer fund that different from the towns regeneration fund that the Tories 'sold them so so cheaply for'?

Bernard Salmon said...

Richard: We are adopting a constructive approach to the budget negotiations, but it does require the SNP to do likewise if a new budget is to be passed. And that means less of the posturing they've been indulging in over the last few weeks.
Stephen: I agree that the cut in income tax does require cuts to public spending, and I made some suggestions on that earlier this month.
On the small retailer thing, I think the two are certainly complementary but are not the same, because as I understand it the Tory proposal was just focused on town centre regeneration, whereas the Lib Dem one is about supporting small retailers wherever they are, not just in town centres.

Richard Thomson said...

In a similar vein, Bernard, I'm delighted that the posturing over a 2p income tax cut has been dropped. The hand can be extended when the fist is unclenched, as someone said recently.

Here's to some fruitful discussions - though I do like the idea of being labelled a Gnat by someone from a party led by a Clegg :-)

Stephen B said...

I would suggest that reform of public sector pensions would probably yield a good saving but that would lead to a world of political pain.

James said...

Heaven forbid that anyone should be found posturing in this situation, especially on Newsnight with a pink tie.

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