What would Charles Dickens have made of all this?
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
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we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, this past week, it has been one or the other depending on whether you were an SNP supporter at Holyrood or a Labour supporter in Glasgow.
Recent days have seen our esteemed leaders at national and local level set out their spending plans. For the SNP in Edinburgh this meant Finance Secretary John Swinney being carried shoulder high to victory, while in Glasgow, besieged Labour council leader Gordon Matheson staggered across the budgetary finishing line, pausing only to remove the knives buried between his shoulder blades.
I wonder what the great Charles Dickens, author of “A Tale of Two Cities” and a former parliamentary reporter would have made of it all…
Chapter One – The Period
In England there was an old Etonian with a large jaw in the flat at No.10 and in Scotland, a former economist with a big heid in the flat at Bute House.
At the people’s palace of Holyrood there was rolling in the aisles and dancing in the streets, as young Master Swinney, leading light of the nationalist players, conjured a budget from the loose change found in the pockets of the Chancellor’s knickerbockers.
Meanwhile, weary unionists fleeing persecution via the M8 corridor, were to find cold comfort in the murky depths of George Square’s marble chambers. (Is this a euphemism? - Ed)
Chapter Two – Edinburgh, The Scottish Government Budget Debate
At the appointed time, the boyish Finance Secretary nimbly leapt to his feet and cried, “Upon my honour, I have listened, cogitated and digested and present to you good friends a budget for jobs and growth of which we can be proud. It is only my overall majority which prevents me from going on at great length, because, frankly there’s no need, since it’s in the bag.”
“Finally, I say to the opposition, it is a far, far better thing that I do, than you have ever done.”
There then followed much speechifying of the barely audible sort, until the fateful moment when the foregone conclusion was concluded, they pressed their buzzers and the budget was passed.
Chapter Three – Glasgow, The City Council Budget Meeting
As Master Matheson alighted from his tumbril he glared defiantly at the waiting crowds crying ; “Put your knitting away, you vultures! I’m not finished yet!”
And so it proved to be, with the ancien Labour regime narrowly scraping a victory. “You bounders! You cads!” squealed the Leader, hopping from foot to foot, as if sore afflicted with the gout, “You’re trying to exploit the pain and division in the Labour party for electoral purposes!”.
“That’s wur job, and we are doing it admirabubbly”, retorted the nationalist leader Mme Hunter, “Just you wait ‘Enry ‘Iggins! Just you wait!”
Chapter Four – The People
By the flickering light of a one bar fire, Jessie switched the TV off and turned to her old pal Ina, “What did you make of it, Ina?” “Nothing at all.” said Ina.
“That’s a coincidence, for I made the same of it myself.” said Jessie.
“It seems to me Jessie,” said Ina, “that some of our noisiest authorities insist on this period in time being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
“You’re no wrong, Ina”, said Jessie, “It’s the moon or the midden wi’ the lot of them.”