Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pride cometh before it...

Alex Salmond, former economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland speaking in February last year:
"The Scottish banks are amongst the most stable financial institutions in the world."
Oh dear.

Alex Salmond on the 'arc of prosperity':
"SNP Leader Alex Salmond has today called for Scotland to join northern Europe's arc of prosperity, with Ireland to the west, Iceland to the north and Norway to the east all small independent countries in the top six richest nations in the world."
Oh dear, oh dear.

And now this:
"THE Scottish Government's £33 billion budget was tonight rejected by the Scottish Parliament after a knife-edge vote."
That's a wee shame for them, so it is.

Making cheap shots isn't particularly helpful in these times of economic trouble.

But it is emotionally desirable. Furthermore, I have no particular interest in being helpful, so I would just like to say:
Ha ha!
Seriously though - there probably isn't that much point in being serious about this because while they've proved a bit pricey already, I reckon the SNP will be able to purchase themselves another couple of Green votes and get the budget passed because the Tories have already given their support.

The Conservative and Unionist Party supporting the Nationalists, who would have thunk it? Anyone who pays the slightest attention to Scottish politics, I would have thought.

Anyway, perhaps I'm misreading it but this whole mini-crisis looks rather Westminster to me. Where's the new constructive, consensus politics we were told devolution would bring? It's something of a political science cliché to describe the British Parliament as one of the weakest legislatures in the world in relation to the executive - but not any less accurate for it being one. The passage of budgets through the Commons demonstrates this. No second chamber veto and there's nothing unusual for them to pass through Parliament without any amendments of any kind being made.

Salmond's an arrogant twat almost all of the time - and he's certainly been one here - but it strikes me that he's also bringing some of the Westminster assumptions with him, which aren't helping. Bringing a budget to a legislature with either PR like all other European countries - or to a legislature enjoying independence of tenure from the executive, as in the US - is always going to be rather more difficult than our rubber-stamp shop. How much more so when you're in a minority government? Yet Salmond & Co are behaving as if something really weird has just happened to them. And so are most of the commentators - which is why I think this crisis will turn out to be a bit of a disappointment for crisis fans.

Same with this business of the SNP threatening an election. But the First Minister does not have the prerogative of the British Prime Minister to call an election. Everyone understands this - but the threat to resign from government will be sufficient, I reckon, to get enough bottles crashing - another reason that this crisis might prove to be rather boring.

Perhaps Alex Salmond will learn a little humility from this episode - but like Scottish independence, I can't imagine this happening any time soon. Salmond isn't stupid and I bet he's secretly glad Scotland never gained its independence on any of the various occasions when his hubris led him to predict it. Because regardless of whether they played a part in making it, electorates invariably punish sitting governments for economic mess. And while they obviously will claim otherwise, there is absolutely no reason to believe that things would have been any different in an independent Scotland with the Nationalists at the helm. For while there are plenty of examples of Mr Salmond saying some rather foolish things and making some rather reckless predictions, no-one seems to be able to remember the former economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland calling for better regulation of the financial sector.

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