For what’s actually a pretty significant story, at least in political terms, it’s got very little airtime thus far. One article in the Telegraph a couple of days ago is all I’ve found of any significance. The Treasury have asked Scotland to find £107 million in savings in 2015/2016, compared to the original £177 million they were going to be asked to find. This amounts to a reduction of £70 million at a time when other departments are being squeezed even further than before. Add to this the fact that Scotland can defer its cuts until the next year, an option not available to anyone else, and it starts to look like preferable treatment.
Now, one of the reasons it probably hasn’t got a lot of attention is that £70 million pounds is money behind the sofa to the Treasury. In political terms though, it makes you wonder why it’s happening. Particularly as the Telegraph story focused on the Treasury denying the whole thing had come about to appease the SNP, and specifically had not come out of a discussion between Osborne and John Swinney, the SNP Finance Minister.
It appeared to be a case of using a denial to draw attention to something. In other words, the chancellor or those around him at least, wanted to call a limited amount of attention to the fact that the Tories were “caving in” to SNP demands.
I might be being cynical here (I am in a cynical place, particularly when it comes to politics, at present) but there does seem to be some intentional placating of the SNP for political purposes going on here. After all, the SNP’s whole pitch to the Scottish electorate in terms of Westminster electioneering is that their MPs care only about Scotland, in contrast to Scottish Labour, which they say is just an outpost of “London Labour”. Managing to get the Tories to reduce the amount cut from the Scottish budget, when everything else is getting slashed, is a big feather in their cap. Imagine how good “The SNP saved you £70 million” will look on a leaflet.
Again this comes back to the common political ends the Tories and the SNP share, namely to destroy the Labour Party. Only thing is, it means, however unconsciously, that the Tories are helping the SNP with their other big political aim, i.e. destroying the Union. It seems that crushing their electoral rivals beats out holding the country together, at least for now.
Or, as I said, I’m being overly cynical here. I’d like to think I was. But I don’t think I am.