There's only one group of people to blame for the Scottish Parliament's rejection of the budget: the Gnat government themselves.
Alex Salmond and co refused even to discuss the principle of putting more money back into people's pockets to help address the current economic crisis, as suggested by the Scottish Lib Dems. They refused to accept the Greens' suggestion of £100 million more for home insulation. And they refused to accept the Labour demand for more money for training and apprenticeships. Had they accepted any of those ideas, they could have got their budget through.
The Tories, as usual, allowed themselves to be bought off cheaply once again, showing yet again that they're not to be trusted in standing up against the arrogance and posturing of the SNP.
Salmond seems to have forgotten that when you run a minority aqdministration, it's incumbent on you to try and build consensus to get your budget and your legislation through. He's failed to do that.
He's responded to the defeat of the budget by saying that the SNP was putting itself on an election footing, the political equivalent of taking your ball home. What he seems to have forgotten is that whether there's a new election is not entirely his decision - it depends on what the other parties do as well.
I would suggest that the opposition parties ought to take their opposition to the budget to its logical conclusion and table a motion of no confidence in the Gnat administration. Even the Scottish Tories might baulk at supporting the Gnats in a confidence vote, meaning that the Scottish Government would fall. If no alternative government can then be formed, obviously an election would take place, but there's no necessity for one if a new government can take office.
And although Salmond seems to be relishing the possibility of an election, he would do well to bear in mind that the Gnats now have a record to defend. In the Highlands, for instance, the Gnats campaigned before the 2007 election in favour of a new bypass for Inverness. But now the Gnat MSPs will have to explain to the electorate just why such a bypass appears nowhere in their own government's transport plan. It's that record of broken promises and posturing which the Gnats will have to defend.
I expect it won't quite come to that and the Gnats will find just enough to buy off at least the abstention of the Greens when they put the budget through again. But they could have saved everyone a lot of trouble had they been a bit less arrogant in advance of the budget vote.
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