Comfort zones

Patrick Harvie is being touted – or is touting himself – as holding the balance of power at Holyrood. He is portrayed as having the ability to force the SNP’s hand on a number of issues. But is that really the case? Are the Greens really in a position to set the policy agenda to the extent that is being claimed? Is it “Patrick the power broker”? Or is it Patrick the pawn?

Looking at the list of policies where the Greens are hoping to flex some muscle – income taxation, council tax, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act – it is clear that they are likely to be pushing at an open door. Nicola Sturgeon has clearly signalled that she favours higher taxes. The difference being that, where the Greens want to raise taxes as a gesture even if the measure is revenue negative, Sturgeon insists that increasing taxes must actually bring in additional money.

Similarly, the SNP is far from averse to abolishing council tax. It’s just a matter of making sure that whatever replaces it is fit for purpose.

On the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, it’s Harvie who must tread warily. The legislation is well supported by the public. the Greens could find themselves in the invidious position of siding with the British parties against a popular measure.

Even the matter of Air Passenger Duty is not as clear-cut as it might appear. The environmental arguments against its reduction/abolition may not stand up to much scrutiny. It’s not as if thousands more people are going to start taking flights just because the tax has been lifted. It’s just that they’d have less disincentive to fly to or from Scotland.

But it is the business of cooperating with the British parties that presents the greatest difficulty for Harvie. That, and the fact that the SNP administration may not need the Greens’ support anyway. Parts of their programme will be supported – however grudgingly – by one or more of the British parties. And its one thing for the SNP to passively accept such support in order to implement the manifesto on which the party was elected, quite another for the Greens to actively collude with the British parties against the democratically elected government.

All in all, it looks like Harvie is likely to be more pawn than power broker. He may come to regret boasting of his ability to force the government’s hand. He may well find that he’s the one taken out of his wee comfort zone.

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One thought on “Comfort zones

  1. Del

    Dear Patrick,
    be careful what you wish for. The libdems propped up the Conservatives at Westminster last time around. Look where it got them.

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