It’s become almost as much a part of Scottish tradition as Burns night. Around this time of the year, as the days start to get longer, you hear the first plaintive cries of SNP ministers offering to resign. Last year it was the First Minister, Alex Salmond who promised to fall on his sword; this time it was the turn of the Finance Secretary, John Swinney to ask for his P45. Of course, it’s all about money.
The Scottish government has decided that the best way to get its budget through the Scottish parliament is to attach it to a resignation letter. This forces the opposition parties to contemplate the nuclear option: voting against the budget bill and risking the wrath of the Scottish voters furious at having an unnecessary election. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have already gone nuclear having had their 2p tax cut summarily rejected by John Swinney on the grounds that cutting £800million in public expenditure might not be the best way to provide a fiscal stimulus to the Scottish economy right now.
This leaves the Tories and the Greens who say that this year they won’t just be government stooges. The Greens want what greens always want which is less hot air - a mass insulation programme worth a £100m a year. Since this is more or less what the government is doing, one suspects the greens may get a result here. But what of the Tories? They’ve insisted that they are not nationalist patsies and cannot be taken for granted. They have banged their fists on the table and demanded monitoring a scheme for hospital acquired infections and a week of outdoor education for children. Tough or what? I bet John Swinney is on the phone to the job centre as we speak.
Which leaves it to Labour to save Scotland from the evils of nationalism. Their leader Iain Grey spits in the face of ministerial resignation threats. Go on - if you think you’re hard enough! Unless the SNP scraps its Scottish Futures Trust and local income tax - which it won’t - Labour say they will vote against the budget later this year, come what may. Read. My. Lips.
Are they for real? Could Iain Gray be in Bute House by Christmas? Last year Labour insisted they would vote down the nationalist budget, which they effectively did - only they had to vote against their own amendment to ensure that this didn’t mean they had to face an election This elicited much ridicule from the proto-nationalist fellow travellers and quislings of the Scottish press. Surely they wouldn’t bottle it again. Would they?
Well, Iain Gray seems to think there wouldn’t need to be an election and that the Presiding Officer would let him take over unelected if the SNP budget were lost. I suppose he could just lock up the SNP MSPs in a Holyrood committee room and send tanks to shell Bute House. What a story! Scotland’s first coup d’etat. If only.