Scotland is to get extensive tax raising powers next year, as part of the consolation prize Westminster gave the Nationalists after they lost the independence referendum nearly 18 months ago.
Far from being grateful for this fiscal control which is among a raft of measures in the new Scotland Bill that will make this country’s government one of the most powerful devolved administrations in the world the SNP is using it to pick a fight with London.
On Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon said, on the Andrew Marr show, there was “some distance to travel” before a deal was done over the new fiscal framework. Then, on Monday, her finance minister John Swinney warned time was running out on an agreement.
This is all about how much cash Scotland gets from the UK once the new tax rules come into force and whatever the eventual sum is, we can be sure that it won’t be enough in Nationalist eyes.
While the separatists have long used their lack of financial autonomy as an excuse for their failures, they do not relish having to fend for themselves. Political games are far easier than sitting down and working out how Scotland is going to raise at least some of the money it spends.
It has been left to another party, the Scottish Conservatives, to brainstorm the issue and now it has come up with a workable plan.
With a commission headed by the former CBI Scotland head Sir Iain McMillan and including representatives from a wide political cross section, the Tories have produced some ideas that at the very least are worthy of a serious discussion.
Perhaps most controversially, they back the creation of a middle tax band at about 30% but rule out increasing the top rate, as Labour advocates.
Business rates should be frozen, the commission recommends, for the course of the next Scottish parliament, to offset the 42% increase in rates since 2007.
And it has also called for council tax to be made fairer to help poorer families but for Swinney’s “unfair” land tax to be scrapped.
The commission argues Scotland must retain its competitive edge by keeping the overall tax burden lower, if possible, than the rest of the UK’s.
Given the jitters in the business community, as a result of the last referendum and the never-ending prospect of the next one, this makes sense.
As does the blueprint’s reassurance to those with aspirations, the kind of potential wealth creators that Scotland needs to encourage, not scare away, as the SNP seems determined to do.
In having a plan at all, the Conservatives have opened up a gulf between themselves and the Nationalists. But they have been especially shrewd in attacking the SNP on its weakest fronts.
It doesn’t take a business mind like McMillan’s to point out Nationalist innumeracy.
The Yes Scotland campaign of 2014 was notorious for its back-of-an-envelope approach to matters as vital as an alternative currency (they didn’t have one).
And though the party denies it now, its only big economic idea was based on the price of oil being more than $110 a barrel, with talk of Norwegian style oil funds and Saudi style wealth.
The reality a $30 a barrel slump and billions of pounds lost from oil revenues, not to mention the jobs misery in the north-east must make many Scottish voters, Yes ones included, mightily relieved the referendum vote went against the Nationalists. If that doesn’t make people think carefully about who they will back in May’s Scottish elections, perhaps the Tories’ proposals to reform council tax will.
Town hall budgets have been squeezed for years by Swinney’s freeze on local rates and though this has helped the SNP to successive parliamentary victories, it has hurt those from disadvantaged backgrounds who rely most on public services.
Rory Mair, the outgoing head of council umbrella group Cosla, said people dependent on social care had been hammered by the financial pressures facing local authorities while the “fairly well off in this country might not have noticed”.
If this is something Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, is prepared to tackle, then she may well steal a march on her opponents.
An opinion poll over the weekend suggested the Conservatives could overtake Labour in May, making them the second biggest party at Holyrood (the SNP, in the same poll, are on course for an increased majority of 73 seats).
Davidson must take personal credit for this turnaround in the once “toxic” Tories’ fortunes north of the border. But if she goes into the campaign armed with a manifesto that promises to both boost growth and better protect the poor, her party may well have found a winning formula too.