The Budget - what we lost.
There's been some chatter about the Greens' position in the various Budget votes, and plenty of heavy spin from the Nats in particular. First, they clearly briefed after Wednesday's vote that they "punished" us for voting against on the 28th. They may think this makes them look hard, but I suspect the bullying approach won't go down too well with voters. We shall see.
Second, and more seriously, they are making claims about the first time the Budget came up for a final vote. Specifically, the suggestion is that we would have got a scheme just like the one we proposed then, albeit on a smaller scale. Given that we'd voted against, the claim goes, they then made it means-tested as part of said punishment.
The truth is a little different. We argued for months that loft and cavity insulation would have to be free to everyone to avoid the failings of countless other targeted schemes, but until the debate on the 28th we had had no pledge from Ministers on this. Then, during the debate (i.e. pretty damn late even if it had been helpful), we were given a note from the First Minister which said that "the emphasis in the schemes would be free and universal".
No wonder Patrick told the media there were "too many caveats" just after voting against. The fact that we had no idea whether the money being offered on the hoof was going to be chiselled off other fuel poverty programmes was one, and the fact that they appeared to have missed the point of the scheme was another, to say the least. Here's several things that statement above could mean.
1. Some of the areas will get free insulation, and we will emphasise those areas.
2. Some of the properties in every area will get free insulation, decided by means testing, and we will emphasise those properties.
3. The advice element will be free, which is already part of the Energy Asistance Package, and we'll keep emphasising that.
4. Some part of each job, maybe labour, maybe materials, will be free, and we will emphasise that part.
I'm sure you could come up with others, but, bottom line: we were never offered a chance to deliver what we had proposed, even at a slower starting pace than we would have liked. Chipping some money off the total this week was crass, but essentially irrelevant.
Nevertheless, thanks to the SNP's intransigence, we lost an opportunity to make a real start on cutting household bills, tackling climate change, boosting jobs and doing something radical about fuel poverty. It breaks my heart to see how they threw this opportunity away, but I'll do another post later on what everyone else lost.
Bottom line, this is a good idea, it isn't going away, and one day Government will start doing it. The time until that happens, the weeks and months, will be wasted. Shame.