Thursday, November 09, 2006

West Lothian question

Here's the breakdown of 2005-6 UK identifiable public expenditure in £ per capita as published by the Govt:

England Scotland Wales NI
Public services 93 164 213 240
Public order & safety 403 399 405 750
Economic development 94 126 287 190
Science & technology 37 61 21 41
Employment policies 52 160 53 97
Agric, fish & forests 75 134 134 375
Transport 288 413 261 241
Environment 115 224 146 205
Housing & community 132 289 134 457
Health 1460 1676 1486 1586
Recreation & culture 123 207 197 84
Education & training 1147 1258 1170 1459
Social protection 2739 3150 3155 3406
TOTAL 6762 8265 7666 9084

As the Telegraph said on 31 October when discussing the case of a couple in Berwick-upon-Tweed: they "look upon the River Tweed, a mile from their log home in Northumberland, in much the same way as Mexicans regard the Rio Grande: it is what divides them from a more prosperous life...One of the motivations is the home-improvement grants that they have discovered are available north of the border but not south. 'We can buy a dilapidated property in Scotland, wait a year and a half until I turn 60, and get free central heating and double glazing.'...If their daughter goes on to university, the couple will save up to £3,000 a year in up-front tuition fees - Scottish students are exempt from the charges...Already, the couple have forsaken the NHS for its counterpart north of the border. 'If anything goes wrong, we jump in the car and go up to the Borders General Hospital, near Melrose. The first thing you notice at a Scottish hospital is that you don't get threatened with wheel-clamping. You don't even have to pay for car parking.'"


Blogger Richard Thomson said...

Since the West Lothian question is about voting rights at Westminster and has nothing at all to do with public spending, what point are you trying to make here?

If it's to try and show how hard done by the English are compared to us Scots, it's probably more helpful to compare the English regional wealth (GVA index - UK=100) and spending breakdowns with the UK average spend of £7,000 per head.

N IRELAND - £9,084. GVA = 80.2
SCOTLAND - £8,265. GVA = 96.2
London - £8,037. GVA = 132.2
WALES - £7,666. GVA = 79.1
North East - £7,689. GVA = 79.9
North West - £7,368. GVA = 102.0
Yorks & Humber - £6,829. GVA = 88.8
East Midlands - £6,248. GVA = 91.5
West Midlands - £6,676. GVA = 91.2
Eastern - £5,864. GVA = 108.7
South East - £5,959. GVA = 116.1
South West - £6,634. GVA = 92.9

Scotland has 1/12 of the UK population on 1/3 of the land mass, which means it costs more to deliver government services than it does in more densely populated parts of the UK. As a city, what's London's excuse for taking £1,037 over the UK per capita spend, especially when it is already far and away the wealthiest part of the UK?

When you factor in the unidentifiable spending, which benefits London & the South East the most, the gap narrows considerably. And that's before you consider all the big capital projects which benefit that part of the world like the Jubilee Line Extension, Crossrail, Channel Tunnel rail link, the 2012 Olympics etc ad nauseum.
Its part of the deal that richer areas help fund poorer areas. That's why Scotland, London, the East & South East pay in more that they get back out, and Yorkshire/Humberside, Northern Ireland, the North East and West Midlands get more than they pay in.

Scots will pay £800m more to the Treasury this year than will be spent in Scotland in return. If Scotland were independent, we'd be running a budget surplus, instead of which we have to take our share of the hit on this year's £33.5bn UK deficit.

People in England have every right to complain about the West Lothian question and to think of ways to try and solve it. However, if you want to sort out the undoubted spending and wealth inequalities in England, I'm afraid the answer lies closer to home...

9:19 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

You've won a bottle of champagne (or single malt if you prefer) as the first person to make a comment on my blog site! Thank you for those interesting statistics. Could you give me the figures which show that Scotland will pay £800m more to the Treasury this year than will be spent there? I concede that the title of my piece was misleading. My complaint is that we have to put up with education and health standards which would not be tolerated in Scotland but which Scottish MPs are perfectly happy to be whipped in to voting for in England.

8:51 am  
Blogger Richard Thomson said...

Seriously? Wow - I'll need to go looking for more blogs without comments to see if their owners are similarly generous!

The figures are available in a document from the SNP website in a document called 'Scotland in Surplus'

I'll declare an interest upfront here as someone who had a hand in helping to produce it. However, the figures used are all Treasury figures, and where these are not used, evidence in the form of referenced academic research or parliamentary answers are quoted to explain exactly why this is the case.

For what its worth, I've every symapthy for you on the West Lothian Question. It's an injustice, and I'm surprised its taken so long for people in England to wake up to it.

However, it's one thing to be annoyed about it, and another thing entirely to do something constructive about it. Labour still has a majority of seats in England despite getting fewer votes than the Conservatives, thanks to the first-past-the-post system. PR would soon sort that out, but no-one apart from the Lib Dems seems to be much in favour.

Regional assemblies might help, but they died a death when the North East voted 'no'. English votes for English laws? Seductive, but since the amount of spending alocated to Scotland is dependent on what the government decides to spend in England (thanks to the frequently misunderstood 'Barnett Formula'), that then disenfranchises Scottish voters unless you first disentagle UK and English public spending.

Also, if you had an English parliament, or English votes for English laws, is the system robust enough to cope with Gordon Brown running the MoD, FCO, HM Treasury and aspects of the Home Office, while David Cameron ran the rest? Now, that would definitely be worth getting the popcorn out for!

The quick, clean and easy answer is independence for Scotland. We get to represent ourselves in the world and the powers to try and match the economic successes of other smaller European countries like Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Irish Republic. We continue to cooperate on matters of mutual interest, and where that mutual interest is absent, as it quite often is when it comes to matters like immigration and the EU, the pretence is dropped, to everyone's benefit.

It means England loses a bad-tempered lodger, but hopefully gains a good neighbour in the process. Removing the grievance and grudge culture which exists on both sides of the border in this way would, I think, do far more for harmonious relationships in these islands than any other single act.

11:40 am  
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10:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do the comment 'spammers' get a drink as well ? You can hassle the Scots all you like, if Tony Benn had had his way, all the [Scottish] North Sea oil revenue would have been invested for the benefit of all, instead of being pi$$ed up the wall in the seventies when we were due to go cap in hand to the IMF.

At the end of the day, harsh as it may sound, if you like the Scottish way so much you will have to move there and put up with the weather, remoteness, and so forth. Nothing will change very radically. I am Welsh. I could move back there for 'free prescriptions'. But there ain't any jobs.

Life is full of swings and roundabouts - and like any package deal you have to take the rough with the smooth.

11:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire your tenacity in fighting for England to have the same education standards as they do in Scotland. But several very unlikely things would have to happen. I'm not a literary person, so you may have to help me out with the '3 impossible things before breakfast' reference.

First, you would have to move the entire population of children of Bristol up to Scotland. [There may be other cities with an education system that is nearly as abysmal, so bear this in mind when planning your relocation budget].

Then you would have to move anyone who owns a Sony Playstation up to the highlands as well.

You would have to abolish the laws which mean that teachers can be off work for months if a petulant child accuses them of touching them inappropriately, even if this is patently untrue. [There are a number of other steps which I won't go into now which need to be taken to resolve the problem Boris pointed out about so few male teachers].

There might need to be a wholescale review of whether 'mainstreaming' or 'mixed ability teaching' is actually helpful in promoting equality, or just a failed concept still grasped like a security blanket by, it pains me to say, Labour people who want a fairer world. People like, er, Ruth Kelly...

Lastly [radical concept alert] one may need to revisit whether abolishing the old Grammar schools was a step to a more equal, fair future or whether it has actually resulted in a far more unequal society because it has made it impossible for some people to break out of the disadvantages of their station - 'social mobility' to use the jargon.

Smaller class sizes. Controversial.

Even I admit I would rather be taught in a class of 30 by a great teacher than a class of 20 by a crap one. But much of the lack of discipline crept in as teachers were loaded up with ever larger classes. Once the genie was out of the bottle, it wasn't going back in.

Of course, this nirvana is not in existence in Scotland, but then south of the border has a lot of catching up to do. I am a 'working class' boy of 40 and because I lived in 'behind the times' Wales, I went to a Grammar school. It changed over in my last year. Luckily for a year I was in....

..can I admit to this.... independent A-level college...

Because I used money left to me for that, rather than buy a car. I was fairly lucky. It pi$$e* me off very much indeed when Tony Blair promised so much and delivered so little on this.

I am willing to give Gordon Brown the benefit of the doubt and say I think he would genuinely like to improve the education system up to Scottish levels.

My view is that entrenched views of the kind enunciated by that imbecile David Blunkett may make it impossible to make the staggering number of changes to repair the damage of the last 10 yrs.

What pains me most is that I lost my belief in the Tories because they seemed to be 'pulling up the rope ladder' under them, to prevent other people achieving their full potential.

But, stone me, the Labour party [or Nulabour, to be more precise], who have achieved some good things in the last decade, have pulled up the ladder of advancement far more painfully, and denied more opportunities, than even the most rabid right-winger could have done..whilst wasting time on things like 'banning' fox-hunting and using mobiles in cars. I do despair..

11:05 pm  

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