Margo 'holds the balance' in crunch vote on SNP's budget

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MARGO MacDONALD could have the deciding vote in tomorrow's crucial debate on the SNP's budget – and she is demanding a dedicated fund for Edinburgh in return for her support.

The independent Lothians MSP told Finance Secretary John Swinney there must be a separate budget head for a "capital city supplement" if he wanted her to back the Scottish Government in what could be an extremely close vote.

It is still not certain how the opposition parties will vote when MSPs have to decide whether to approve the the SNP's 30 billion spending plans for next year.

But if the Tories support the SNP, as seems likely, and Labour and the Liberal Democrats vote against the budget, it could come down to how Ms MacDonald and the two Green MSPs vote.

Ms MacDonald said: "I have been up front with John Swinney that I have a particular interest in the budget and that is there should be a budget head added to be called 'capital city supplement'.

"And it has to be new money, not money taken from other local authorities."

She said a sum of between 12m and 15m seemed "a reasonable amount to aim at". But she added:

"The most important thing is to get the principle established. If he does that I'm much more likely to support his other measures."

Ms MacDonald said she felt justified in making the Capital's spending needs a decisive issue.

She said: "I have a responsibility to everyone in Scotland. But my particular responsibility and mandate comes from people in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

"I consider myself to have been elected for one or two reasons and this is one of them." Lothians MSP and Green co-leader Robin Harper said he and colleague Patrick Harvey would find it "probably impossible" to support the SNP budget because it included vast sums for the M74 extension, a second Forth Road Bridge and the Aberdeen bypass.

If Labour and the Lib Dems vote against the budget, they could come within one vote of defeating the Government, 63-62.

If the Greens also vote against, that would tip the balance 64-63 against the Government and Ms MacDonald's vote could be crucial in creating a tie. But if the Greens abstained and Ms MacDonald were to vote with the opposition that would also create a tie.

A government source said they were "pretty optimistic" about winning tomorrow's vote.

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