Why SNP is wrong to attack UK Government over Budget date – John McLellan

The UK Budget was delayed because of the General Election, which the SNP supported, writes John McLellan.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 6:00 am
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will look to pick a fight with Westminster, suggests John McLellan. Picture: John Devlin

The SNP has been quick to complain that the UK Government decision to deliver its budget on 11 March “disrespects devolution” because it comes after the Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay hoped to set his spending plans. It’s an accusation we will be hearing regularly as the UK Government increases its activities and visibility in Scotland without waiting for permission from the Nationalist administration.

The budget delay was caused by the General Election – which the SNP supported – and despite this the Welsh Government has already been able to publish a draft budget, so it should not be beyond Mr Mackay’s capabilities either.

After all, Scottish councils go through this sort of process every year as they publish budgets ahead of the Scottish Government’s programme, which then have to be adjusted once the actual grant settlements are known.

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According to its own figures, the Scottish Government underspent by £449m last year and £453m the year before and it already knows it will have £1.2bn more to spend this year thanks to UK Government increases. So Mr Mackay has quite a float to tide him over, but watch him try to turn this into an entirely avoidable crisis.

Councillors did all they could to stop Boatel

The Scottish Government reporter’s decision to allow a “boatel” on the canal next to Boroughmuir High School has caused justifiable consternation, after the plan for a string of barges was opposed by 300 locals and thrown out by the council’s planning committee.

Scottish Canals is a government agency with a brief to maximise revenue opportunities and will benefit from leasing the quayside space. The minister, Kevin Stewart, could have rejected the reporter’s recommendation and it can only be assumed he was aware of the unanimous opposition to the scheme when not doing so.

Some people have tried to blame the council, but having thrown out the plan there really was nothing more councillors could do. Planning officers, however, can say “we told you so” as they originally recommended it for approval.