Fraser Nelson

The pitfalls of a minority government

The pitfalls of a minority government
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If anyone wants a taste of what Westminster would be like with a minority government, have a look at the fiasco in Holyrood. Alex Salmond's nationalists failed to pass their budget last week, so he threatened to resign and have an election (which is automatic, if no other party can form a majority). The Greens were bribing him, asking for £22 million for some home insulation scheme, then upping it to £33 million. As always with the PR system, the tail wags the dog. Salmond refused to play ball, the prospect of an election loomed, and a massive outbreak of political self-indulgence at a time when the devolved government has better things to do. A deal is now reportedly imminent - but the whole thing is shambles. Cameron should look on, shudder and pray that he gets a healthy majority.

P.S. The Scottish "budget" of £33bn is typically about half the state spending in Scotland - the rest (welfare, defence etc) comes from Westminster. There's a two-year lag on the figures but it looks like £63bn for 2009 - which would be 55.3% of GDP. This is the highest in the developed world. And yet the Scottish tax burden would be 40% - against England's 45%. The forecast gap between money raised and spent is £17bn - and the black gold will not fill it. North Sea revenues are likely to be £8.7bn in 2009-10, and that's presuming (as PBR08 does) that prices stay at $60/barrel.  So when the MSPs wrangle over the budget, they should be mindful of how lucky the are that the English taxpayer gives them so much to spend.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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