The SNP’s rivals – by which I mean both the British parties and the other pro-independence parties (OPIP) – are obviously massively disappointed that the SNP has not obliged them by providing ammunition to be used against them. In a characteristically clever piece of political manoeuvring, Sturgeon has done just enough to qualify as meaningful reform in the eyes of the wider electorate, but not so much to scare off the voters expected to give the SNP another term in May.
For many of us, this is the way politics should be done. A carefully calculated amalgam of principle and pragmatism. Quietly effective administration that allows incremental change while eschewing the kind of grandstanding that can, and so often does, go badly awry.
We shouldn’t take too seriously the raging and petulant foot-stamping of the British parties and the OPIPs. The former, as we know, will react with indignant apoplexy even when the SNP administration makes the very concessions they demand – for example, on the budget. The latter know damned well that there was not the slightest possibility of any inevitably disruptive and controversial plan to abolish the Council Tax this close to an election. Their outrage really is no more than worthy but theatrical posturing for the benefit of their already committed supporters.
None of this will make the slightest difference in the coming election. Cautious as the changes to local taxation may be, even timid from some perspectives, they represent precisely the kind of measured policy-making that has won the favour of a huge swathe of the Scottish electorate.
Of course it is plodding and guided to an evident extent by the electoral interests of the party. But anybody who imagines Scottish voters are offended by such hard-headed realism is guilty of the kind of naivety that they attribute to others. And so long as the plodding is generally taking the country in a direction that people are comfortable with – or, at least, not terrified by – then the SNP will continue to win elections, while their rivals flail around looking for a way to emulate this winning formula.