Thursday, November 25, 2010

But does anyone give two hoots, Tavish?

I'm always a tad sceptical when I hear claims that Tavish Scott has "demolished" someone, so I'm grateful to Caron for reproducing his speech on the "SVR scandal" in full so we can all make our own minds up.  It certainly sounds like he was terribly excited by the whole thing, which begs the obvious question - why?  After all, it will be recalled that a few months ago, when pressed about his reasons for silencing debate on whether the Scottish people should be allowed a say on their own constitutional future, he informed us that the country had "moved on" and that no-one gave "two hoots about it" anymore.  Well, he was demonstrably wrong about an independence referendum, the principle of which is clearly supported by an overwhelming majority of the public.  But those words would, ironically, have been more accurate if applied to the minor constitutional matter presently in hand (if it can even be called 'constitutional' given that the tax-varying powers remain fully intact).  It was once thought conceivable that the SVR could be used in the foreseeable future, but now that we've woken up to the downsides of such a decision, the country has indeed "moved on".  And, while I haven't seen an opinion poll on the subject, I'd be - to put it mildly - somewhat surprised to learn that the electorate would have preferred that £7 million of extra cuts to public services had been made in order to symbolically 'upkeep' a power that isn't going to be used.  I'd also be a bit surprised if they thought the unilateral demands from HMRC for extra payment were remotely reasonable in the first place, but given the widely-reported spin from the unionist parties we'll have to see on that one.

John Swinney has of course now apologised, very graciously, for the one aspect of this trifling affair for which the government can be legitimately criticised - not being more open with parliament about the problems they were encountering with HMRC.  That apology leaves some of the apocalyptic conclusions Scott was drawing in his speech looking even more bizarre...

"Mr Salmond expects to pass a Budget. To negotiate with other parties. After this."

Yes, Tavish, I think he probably does expect that.  After this.  More pertinently, I think the Scottish public probably do still expect the opposition parties - yes, after this - to engage constructively on a matter of such national importance as the Budget, and will not look kindly on this most blatant and contrived of excuses for yet another round of immature obstructionism.

Perhaps the subtext of the speech can best be summed up in the following terms - "look, guys, I've found yet another wizard excuse for regarding the SNP as untouchables in coalition negotiations".  No wonder he was excited.  But honestly, Tavish, we got the message months ago - to say the body language has been leaking somewhat is a bit of an understatement.

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