Politics in Scotland has been thrown into chaos over the last 48 hours.

Yesterday afternoon, the budget proposed by Alex Salmond’s minority SNP administration was thrown out after it was defeated on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer. The Conservative MSPs voted with the SNP, whereas Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens opposed the budget.

According to the Herald:

"Labour argued the budget did too little for jobs,
the Liberal Democrats rejected it after their call for a 2p income tax
cut was dismissed, and Greens said the offer of a £22 million home
insulation scheme – upped at the last minute to a possible £33 million
– was not enough.

Annabel Goldie (pictured) has said that supporting the SNP budget was right after the Tories secured a variety of concessions from the Nationalists:

“The Scottish Conservatives fought hard to secure nearly a quarter of a billion pounds worth of concessions from the SNP Government to help in these difficult economic times. Through responsible negotiations Scottish Conservatives ensured that 150,000 businesses would have had their bills cut or abolished and town centres across Scotland would have received a massive £60 million cash boost. This was action to tackle Labour’s recession. Labour voted it down. And the real horror of what has happened is that public sector workers will face an uncertain future, council tax could go up by an average of £350, health budgets will be slashed by £650 million, small businesses will pay more tax, there will be fewer police on our streets and there will be less care money for our elderly.

“The Scottish Government has said it will re-present the Budget Bill. If it reflects the concessions we have already won, in these circumstances we will support it but we give no similar guarantees to any variant. The SNP should bring this Budget back to Parliament and face Labour down."

A further attempt at putting a budget through the Holyrood will begin
next week, but the First Minister is threatening that if MSPs refuse to
pass it at this second time of asking, he will trigger early elections
to the Scottish Parliament in a new attempt to seek a mandate.

Such machinations are naturally more likely to happen in a legislature elected by proportional representation where no party has an overall majority.

But in this case, were the Scottish Tories right to back the SNP? Was it that the party didn’t want to be seen to be destabilising politics and potentially helping to cause an unnecessary election? Or did they believe that this was the best possible budget deal? And what are the likely repercussions for the Conservatives at the general election north of the border, or at early Scottish Parliament elections, should they be triggered?

It would be especially interesting to hear the thoughts of any readers in Scotland who have been following this saga.

Jonathan Isaby