The very word reeks of failure, weakness and climbdown, at least in the Punch and Judy mindset of British politics. But Scotland’s different – isn’t it? Not if reaction to the Greens’ last-minute Budget compromise with the SNP is to be believed. Labour’s James Kelly said his party “would never sign up to a Budget that has cuts to local services” while Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said Patrick Harvie had been “bought cheaply”, and had “settled for the vice-convenership of the car parking working group”.

Well, well.

If the Greens had pulled out of talks, the LibDems would have been straight in there, demanding lower ferry prices for the Northern Isles in exchange for Budget support. Or Scotland would have faced a costly and quite unecessary election. It’s called horse-trading, and whilst unsavoury, give and take is what politics is all about in modern European democracies.

READ MORE: Neil Findlay sends Scottish Budget speech to all MSPs in hilarious error

So today the Greens – not Labour or the LibDems – will rightly get the credit in council chambers across Scotland for getting their hands dirty, risking involvement and thus helping protect local services, while Labour stood back, lobbed brickbats and just watched. It’s a pattern – that’s what Jeremy Corbyn has been doing throughout the Brexit crisis – but Labour’s stance of sniffy, righteous disengagement doesn’t look any more impressive from this side of the Border.

The revelation that the SNP had struck a deal with the Greens to pass the Scottish Government Budget ahead of the big vote in Holyrood last night proved once again that minority administrations in Scotland can operate by negotiation and compromise in a way Westminster still finds impossible – but only by a squeak.

Even though compromise is how real politics works in the fair proportional voting systems of mainland Europe, Scots have been ensconsed in the confrontational Westminster system for so long that the “us and them” mindset has kinda rubbed off.

READ MORE: Budget deal done as opposition parties slammed for 'seeking chaos'

For decades, first past the post (FPTP) has handed one of the two big Westminster parties a massive majority with just a minority of the vote, which means compromise, horse-trading and consensus building has happened within each over-sized party not within the democratic arena of parliament. And the downsides of that? Witness the Brexit debacle where Theresa May still cares more about keeping the Tory party together than devising a reasonable Brexit deal and, in any case, possesses next to no negotiating skills. Nae wonder. Theresa has issued orders from on high all her political life, and that has left her painfully ill-equipped to deal with the arch negotiators of Europe or the devolved governments of the UK. Loftiness doesn’t just describe Britain’s attitude towards Europe – it penetrates Westminster like virulent woodworm. And, sadly, the English electorate seems to expect nothing else.

That, you might think, is London’s problem. But look at what’s been happening in Holyrood over the past few days regarding the Scottish Budget. The Scottish Government needed the support of two MSPs from another party to get its Budget plans through. And those two could have come from anywhere. But just as Corbyn couldn’t get off his high horse to speak to Theresa May, the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard blocked one of his own MSPs reaching out to the SNP to try and cut a deal.

Deal – yip, there’s another dirty word.

But a deal was the only thing that could mitigate the scale of cuts being passed on to local government by Holyrood. And Labour-led councillors are as desperate as councillors of every other party for MSPs to shield them and the poorest Scots who depend most on the services at risk. So why the heck didn’t Labour get in there, do a deal and take the credit for saving local government?

WATCH: SNP MSP falls off her chair laughing at Tories during Budget

They’ve certainly had enough time. Derek Mackay unveiled his plans in December, with a Budget that included extra funding for education and health alongside higher taxes for higher earners – something polls suggest most Scots back, despite sabre rattling from Conservatives about driving talent away.

But the Tories, Labour and LibDems quickly ruled out doing a deal, in part because the Scottish Government refused to rule out another independence referendum. Purlease.

The National:

More to the point, they also highlighted a £319 million cut to council budgets – a figure the government contests – but beyond that refused to engage. Except for former Fife Council leader and frontbench Labour MSP Alex Rowley – also the party’s local government spokesman – who suggested Labour could back SNP plans if they ploughed £340 million into council coffers.

Well, that was a start. But Rowley was forced to withdraw the offer after rapped knuckles from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard – and there was futher embarassment during First Minister’s Questions yesterday, when Nicola Sturgeon revealed he had proposed a 3% spending cut in every department except health to finance the extra council cash. That would mean a cut in services like affordable housing – needed to provide long-term solutions for homelessness, which was the subject of Leonard’s latest complaint about Scottish Government shortcomings.


Only the Greens chose to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Good on them.

The new deal means more money for councils, more flexibility in raising the council tax to finance services, the option of a tourist tax and a workplace car parking tax to incentivise public transport.

READ MORE: Andy Wightman: Greens are leading the way – we’ll revitalise local democracy

There will be three-year not annual budgets from now on (astonishing that short-termism has existed for so long in local financial planning) and the jewel in the crown – a guarantee of cross-party talks to replace the regressive Tory council tax, which is something the SNP have promised but failed to deliver for years. It’s not full-scale reform of so-called “local” government, but it’s a massive step forward, particularly because Green MSP Andy Wightman has advocated a land tax as part of any replacement package which would at last seriously tackle Scotland’s shameful and enduring concentration of landownership.

So well done the Greens. Their deal is not prefect. Not at all. But it’s good enough. And if the other parties won’t engage to find a really game-changing replacement for the unfit-for-purpose council tax, hell mend them.