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.
Osborne puts the Tories above everything else, so yeah, destroy the union but get to rule a smaller pond.
Imagine how good “The SNP saved you £70 million” will look on a leaflet
But it doesn’t really help the SNP message of, ‘Westminster steals Scotland’s money’, does it?
The more the government is seen to listen to the SNP, the weaker the SNP’s position when it comes to demanding actual independence.
Not all those who vote SNP want independence. So helping the SNP, electorally, does not necessarily equate to harming the union (it is, though, a dangerous and tricky game to play, no question about; but on the other hand, not giving them a tiny, but symbolic, concession, would have played into their ‘Westminster hates us’ narrative and quite probably done even more damage to the union, so whichever way it’s played, it’s tricky and dangerous).
David Dalley says
Destroying Labour is all that matters to Osborne. In the first queen’s speech we see legislation specifically designed to cut off Labour’s union funding. Keeping the SNP strong in Scotland is another Labour crushing ploy. It’s not about running the country for the greater good, it’s all about power and playing petty political games. I don’t ever recall feeling such contempt for a politician (well, maybe Thatcher).
Steve Davenport says
It strikes me that any kind of backroom dealing with the SNP to keep Labour down in Scotland would be very risky for the Conservatives. I’m thinking here in terms of the reaction of English voters to unevenly applied spending cuts for party political purposes.
Moreover, having already cleaned up in the General Election I’m not sure how much more the SNP could do to help the Tories in their supposed shared goal to “destroy the Labour Party” though Scottish Labour are obviously still the 2nd biggest party in Holyrood.
Without having a clue about the mechanics of the Barnett formula I’d agree though that a sudden £70 million rebate for Scotland is suspicious.
Sam Mace says
Surely this is just a small part of a ploy to try and stop the SNP going on and on about full fiscal autonomy? Angus Robertson has tabled an amendment today on the Scotland bill today, maybe Osborne is just beginning the attempt to stop it from becoming reality?