Pretty close to a full house here, which is not bad for a Monday morning at 11am. Also quite a few TV cameras.
Beyond the Budget, Nicola Sturgeon
The LSE has been at the heart of political and social debate since its foundation. Current work on constitution is continuing evidence of this.
Beatrice Webb's Minority Report is one the first statements about a welfare state. That vision is more than 100 years old. It is the basic statement of any civilised society. But there is still much to do. In fact we might be moving further away from this.
We are about to get the last budget of the parliament. Three responses to this.
Budget day is an important institution. There is discussion of parliament moving away from Westminster. But it is not the building that is the problem. It is the working practices and rituals that need overhauling. Budget day is part of the problem. Even the lateness of budget day in the financial year is based on logic from the 17th century. But how useful is that now? Even in the 1970s, the IFS was questioning this. Most countries announce budgets three months before end of the financial year to provide room and time for negotiation.
Scotland has a different system. Draft budget needs to be published four months before actual budget.
Minority governments have certain advantages - it requires making deals and negotiations to build consensus. We have expereince of this in Scotland. But the institution lends itself to this. Westminster would need a more consensual approach to cope with this potential election result.
Current budget system is Westminster politics at is worse. It seems to make poor decisions more likely by prioritising adversarial politics. 2012 is a great example of this problem in practice, and while an extreme example of dysfunction is not the only one we can think of. Every budget has the potential to become a shambles.
1. Lack of consultation. The budget should be opened up to proper scrutiny, especially from the perspective of equalities issues. The UK government nominally does this, but they have been progressively downgraded. Equality impact assessments have had very limited impact on government policy. Equality budgeting does not prevent tough decisions, but means they can be made in a different way.
The oil industry has also suffered because of decisions taken in budgets without proper consultations.
2. Budgetary politics is short-term. On the subject of oil and gas, no UK government has ever had a long-term plan for using these resources effectively. Generally the UK system struggles to cope with complex issues.
Some issues are easier to ignore, because they are complex. Simpler mechanisms, such as personal tax allowance, receive far more focus because they can be digested in the forms of debates that we have.
3. Some different choices that could be made. The defence budget is currently under strain. Cuts have been made in important areas. We no longer have an airborne maritime patrol system. I disagree with renewing Trident on principle. However, it is increasingly clear, that it is financially unjustifiable. My party believes this money should be spent on health and education, but it would also suck up a huge proportion of the defence budget.
This is made worse by the wider public spending context. Low and unequal growth is why the current government has missed its deposit reduction targets.
Our vision is compatible with Beatrice Webb. It is an ambition we can all sign up to. We don't just need new policies, we need a different approach.
I have reflected on the Scottish referendum campaign in the past few months. Two positive things came out of it. First, we asked really positive questions. What kinds of Scotland do we want? Second, the discussion unleashed a wave of energy on both side, which will continue to influence UK politics.
During the campaign we were constantly told that we were equally valued as partners in the UK project. Scotland will now take them at their word. We have views on UK politics, shared across the UK. We will bring these ideas forward in a positive spirit and argue for them. We will bring to bear our experience of government (and successful minority government).