See if you can spot the flaw in The Scotsman's reasoning

by Stephen Tall on January 31, 2009

LDV reported this week on the Scottish Lib Dems’ decision to open talks with the SNP, following the casting vote rejection by the Holyrood parliament of the nationalists’ £33bn budget. In its budget analysis, The Scotsman poses the question, Why did the Lib Dems change their tune?

The article begins by mounting a fierce attack on the Scottish Lib Dems for ditching their principles:

Why had the party, which had adhered to its principle of a 2p cut in income tax throughout the process, suddenly thrown it all away to offer the SNP its support in getting the Budget through? In short, why had it ditched its principles? One opposition MSP offered a succinct response: “Because they are Liberal Democrats: it’s what they do.”

It then continues by mounting a fierce attack on the Lib Dems for standing up for their principles:

Senior Liberal Democrats explained their change of heart by arguing they had put forward their proposals for a cut in income tax, and the parliament had rejected that idea so they were now moving on. … However, that does not really stack up. If it was really the case, the Liberal Democrats would have backed down on their 2p income tax cut after it was clear it commanded no support in parliament, maybe even as early as after the initial stage-one vote on the Budget.

But they did not; they carried right through and caused the defeat of the Budget bill on Wednesday night purely on a point of principle, even though they knew the parliament did not support their tax plans.

Thanks for clearing that one up, The Scotsman – perhaps next time you can work through the distinction between principle (what Tavish Scott and his colleagues displayed) and dogma (what Tavish and his colleagues are avoiding).