Parliament: February 2010 Archives

2003 all over again?

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2003MSPs.jpgThe poll in today's Scotland on Sunday has been discussed elsewhere, but not the Holyrood regional voting intention. It's the best bit, and Kenny F sent me out to the shops this morning especially for it.

Holyrood constituencies (2007 result in brackets)
Labour: 33% (32%)
SNP: 28% (33%)
Conservative: 16% (13%)
Liberal: 16% (14%)
Others: 6% (8%)

Holyrood regional
Labour: 31% (29%)
SNP: 26% (31%)
Conservative: 17% (14%)
Liberal: 14% (11%)
Green: 7% (4%)
Others: 6% (11%)

By Scotland on Sunday's calculations (and mine) that would put us up to seven Green MSPs again. The pic shows what that looked like last time. It's a crude summary, but if this were the actual vote shares in May next year, we'd get a result roughly like the 2003 election, except where the six former SSP MSPs were replaced by the SNP. The obvious post-election arrangement would be another Labour/Liberal coalition, too, although Labour have watched the SNP's minority administration enviously.

Cheering as this poll may be for Greens, it's even more A Bit Of Fun than usual. No Holyrood voting intention will be any kind of worthwhile prediction until the UK election results have bedded in. Will Cameron woo or alienate Scots? Could Gordon Brown even hang on? Might the Liberals get the hung Parliament they crave? Could an AV referendum become a true PR election? Might UKIP get beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party?

The Holyrood polls will start to get properly gripping for anoraks from September, by my calculation. One last factor which might make a difference is Brighton Pavilion. I'm heading down on Friday to help Caroline Lucas get elected. It should be fun, as well as virtuous, and, if she wins, the extra profile for Greens nationally could help us out in 2011 too.
Should MSPs should use Parliament's restaurant to raise party funds? The answer's clear if it's for an average backbencher. 

Add access to your actual First Minister and his Deputy in Parliament as a fundraiser for the SNP's Westminster campaign in Glasgow Central and this story turns from a one-day wonder into a serious problem for the SNP.

So chef's hats off to the Herald for lifting the lid on this one. But let's hear the other side. The Herald today has a piece on the subject which, alongside the scoffing of the other parties, us included, contains the core of three dubious lines of argument the SNP are trying to use to exonerate their top table.

For starters, the rules say Parliamentary resources must not be misused. Because meals at Parliament's restaurant have to be paid for it's therefore not a Parliamentary resource, the SNP claim. Here's a clue. It's in Parliament, and if it wasn't there the place'd be awfully draughty. You can't get into it unless you're with an MSP or with staff working at Holyrood. It's subsidised by the taxpayer. Take that one back to the kitchen.

Next, the course of the main defence runs like this: the auction itself took place elsewhere, so the prize itself can't be "a significant political party purpose". Try that logic with a previous scandal and see if you can swallow it. "Sure, the questions were asked in the Commons, but it's fine because I received the money in the Harrods carpark."

Finally, a spokesman for the great puddin' o' the chieftain-race says it wasn't wrong because the lunch hadn't actually happened when they got caught. We planned to break the rules, the excuse goes, but fortunately the Herald and the Corporate Body have saved us from ourselves. Again, like taking cash for questions but being grilled about it before the questions could be tabled.

I'm sure Kevin Pringle's manual for situations like this says "use every effort to make it look like the guidelines are unclear", yet the truth is otherwise. The "campus", which is the whole Holyrood complex, can only be used for "events relating to a member's parliamentary duties". Despite the substantial public funding the First Minister has provided to Osama Saeed's organisation, it's clear that getting him elected to Westminster is not one of the ways Salmond serves his constituents.

That makes this a set of shameless and indefensible arguments. It's like a substandard Chinese meal, superficially tasty but leaving you hungry for answers in short order. But please let's not give it a "-gate" suffix. They're a dead horse in general, but Parliament's already had Piegate and Burgergate. We couldn't handle "blade of Scottish beef with roast onion mash and winter greens-gate".

It was always said that the Tories' weakness was sex, while Labour's was for money. Following the Westminster expenses Salmond claimed for food during a Holyrood election and the use of Ministerial limos to get to his favourite curry-house, it looks like the First Minister's particular weakness is dinner, with a side order of public money.

Budget heads towards approval.

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Finally, finally, we have persuaded Ministers to start a proper insulation scheme, area-by-area efforts to insulate every loft and cavity wall for free. The £10m announced today won't get it done quickly enough, but the principle is there and we will work to speed it up next year.

We've also convinced them to spend the £2m Westminster gave them for boiler scrappage on ... boiler scrappage. You might wonder how difficult that would be, but even last month they were talking about means testing here.

Add to this the £10m we secured to revive the WATES scheme for wave and tidal power, and that's enough improvement for us to support this Budget today.

The Tories have enough to vote for, the Liberals have enough to abstain on, and Labour have their totemic rail line to justify opposition. Their amendment on that will also go down, not least because they've still not proposed somewhere for the money to come from. We did have a suggestion, after all.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Parliament category from February 2010.

Parliament: January 2010 is the previous archive.

Parliament: March 2010 is the next archive.