Having heard John Swinney speak on the subject of the financial framework negotiations at the weekend, I am more convinced than ever that we have the right man in place. A man who can be relied upon to tenaciously defend Scotland’s interests. A man who will not be intimidated by the looming might of the British treasury. A man who has the wit, the wisdom and the determination to secure a fair deal for Scotland.
This does not mean that I am relaxed about the whole issue. Whatever deal John Swinney manages to extract form the British state, it cannot alter the fact that the Scotland Bill that will thus be facilitated is massively flawed. To work effectively, a tax/benefit system must function as a coherent whole. Having partial control over wee bits of that system is just about the worst imaginable arrangement. Having control divided between two administrations operating in increasingly divergent political cultures and under very different sets of priorities, is a form of fiscal madness.
In many ways, wrenching a fair deal out of a British establishment which equates fairness with exclusive interests of the ruling elites will only be the start of Mr Swinney’s travails. He will then be charged with running Scotland’s economy under a system that was formulated for the purpose of making this as problematic as possible.
But John Swinney isn’t the only one with problems. British Labour in Scotland finds itself on the horns of a serious dilemma. Do they support the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy having a clear mandate from the Scottish electorate? Or do they succumb to the petty resentment of the SNP that informs their every word and deed, and support th Tories, their “Better Together” allies who have no democratic mandate whatever from the people of Scotland?
Accidental Shadow Scottish Secretary. Ian Murray, appears now to be back-pedalling somewhat from the pretendy wee party’s initial instinctive position of blaming the Scottish Government for everything – real and maliciously imagined. He has, for the moment at least, opted to berate both governments in the vacuous and ineffectual manner of someone who has nothing substantive to offer.
The crunch point is coming when “Scottish Labour” will have to come down on one side of the fence or the other. Will they be for Scotland? Or will they, as their conduct over the last few years must surely oblige us to expect, put the British state and partisan advantage before the interests of Scotland’s people.
Will it be, “Scotland first!”? Or will it be, “The Union At Any Cost!”?