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Will Scottish tail wag the dog?

Tories playing a dangerous game with the Union.

Tories playing a dangerous game with the Union.

If the polls are to believed the SNP will sweep the board in Scotland.

The Conservatives throughout the campaign have been wishing this in order to weaken Labour. Now they’re using  this phenomena to try to frighten the English voter.

The line pushed by the Tories and their friends in the right-wing press is that Labour would be held hostage by the SNP. How 50 odd Scottish MPs could get their way and impose their will on 600 MPs has never been adequately explained.

Government whips on any piece of legislation will deal with all the parties to try to get their bills through the house. Some they win others they don’t. David Cameron was defeated six times in the last five years.

Even Tony Blair with his massive majority was defeated four times. In his three years Gordon Brown was defeated three times.

Clearly the whips are going to have their work cut out if there is a minority government but it doesn’t mean that a minority government can’t function and certainly doesn’t mean that there will be chaos. Of course, they’ll be defeated, but with a fixed term parliament it will be even more difficult to use such defeats to remove the government.

Budget woes

“The Scottish nationalists will impose their views on a Labour governments budget and undo all the economic progress that has been made” – the view of Tories.

Wrong and misleading and shows a complete lack of understanding on the budget rules of the House of Commons. And it is only the Commons, as Finance bills don’t go to the Lords.

Sorry to introduce boring Standing orders into the discussion. But in this case it is highly relevant.  Standing Order 48 of the House of Commons states that: “This House will receive no petition for any sum relating to public service or proceed upon any motion for a grant or charge upon public revenue, whether payable out of the Consolidated Fund or the National Loans fund or out of money to be provided by Parliament, or for releasing or compounding any sum of money owing to the Crown, unless recommended by the Crown.”

Put simply, it means, that only the Government that can make proposals to spend money. By convention, this principle has been extended to taxation and the Finance Bills – which are the Bills that authorise the collection of taxes.

So the SNP can huff and puff as much as they like about blocking the Labour budget but only the Government can decide what’s in the budget.

Parliament can only propose and vote on amendments which reduce or remove a tax measure, not increase or create a new one.

So if the SNP and Plaid Cymru wanted to increase expenditure on social security. The only way they could do it is by voting down the whole of the spending plans, or, for example, the Department for Health’s estimates.

That is possible but highly unlikely.

It is quite possible that the Tories would want to vote down Labour’s spending plans but the SNP would have to troop through the same lobby.

The SNP in doing that would have shot themselves in the foot  and inflicted huge political damage on themselves? It’s not likely to happen.

Wrapping themselves in flag of Saint George

So why are the Conservatives doing it? Because they’re running scared. They are facing defeat and are desperate. Nothing they’ve done so far has given them an advantage in the polls.

So they’re trying jingoism. Play off the English against the Scots.

But as the Thaterchite Lord Forsyth (former Scottish secretary in a Conservative government) said  last week it’s a dangerous game. He attacked his own party for putting electoral tactics above a historic commitment to the defence of the UK union.

Will it work though? Maybe. But  voters are not stupid.  They’re too  sensible to vote for a political party that repeatedly puts itself before the national interest.


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