The SNP will be celebrating their achievement of a working majority in the Scottish Parliament, but as a majority Government they face new challenges and dangers that did not exists as a minority Government.
One of the biggest challenges facing the SNP over the next five years is in the budget. The Scottish Parliament works within a fixed budget given to it from Westminster and like all Westminster budgets it is facing enormous cuts. As the system currently stands the SNP has no choice but to pass on those cuts to the departments of the devolved administration and the SNP ministers will need to take decisions as to how they are going to deal with having significantly smaller budgets. Getting these decisions wrong will have a significant detramental impact on the people of Scotland.
Under the proposals within the Scotland Bill there would be some very limited borrowing powers made available to the Scottish Executive. Borrowing to make up a deficit may seem like an obvious solution, but when we think of the reasons why we are suffering these huge cuts and tough economic circumstances one would expect an administration to think twice before putting stuff on the credit card. So, getting these decisions wrong as well could cause significant problems for a governing party.
The real problem for the SNP now is that if they get these decisions wrong they have nobody else to try and place the blame onto. When they were in a minority administration they had to seek a consensus across the Parliament in order that they could get their budget through and this meant having to give budgetary concessions to other parties in order to try and secure their support to get the budget through Parliament. If things went wrong they could always have then placed the blame on their fellow Holyrood colleagues in other party’s citing their need to make concessions in order to get the budget through. That defence is gone. It no longer exists.
These defences, of course, could have been applied to any other piece of legislation that the SNP tried to pass as a minority administration and in the same way they have gone for the budget so to have they gone for other Parliamentary business. Now the SNP have to shoulder any responsibility for erroneous decisions themselves. As they say: it’s lonely at the top.