Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Barnett back on national agenda?

I seem to have got a bit of a reputation over the years for having an interest in the Barnett Formula, the obscure Treasury funding rules which currently award Scotland £1,473 more per head in public spending than England.

So it's always nice to see other journalists occasionally taking up the issue, such as Alice Thomson in today's Telegraph.

"It must be obvious to the Chancellor that this handout is increasingly unacceptable to the English. It has allowed the Scottish Parliament to bring in free care for the elderly, free nursery places and free tuition at universities, as well as enabling them to build a £431 million parliament building. If Mr Brown wants to put a stop to claims that a Scottish MP cannot be prime minister, this is the way to do it," she writes.

Thomson is known for her closeness to Tory leader David Cameron, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Tory frontbench do about this. For the past two elections, the Lib Dems have been the only party committed to scrapping this monstrously unfair system.

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stalin's gran said...

Reputation? it was nearly called the Linford formula for a while. Perhaps the new one (ie they give us money) should be.........

Paul Linford said...

No, it will probably be called the Dale Formula, as he's the national expert on it now apparently...!

RedEye said...

And what gratitude do we get for this largesse? We get the First Minister of Scotland sneering that he'll support Trinidad and Tobago against England (how very chippy), and people who dare to wear England shirts being assaulted in Scotland. I don't expect Scots to support England, but to take such open delight in cheering on anyone who can beat them just grows more and more tiresome. OK, some of this antipathy is due to wrongs committed centuries ago (the Highland clearances), but I think there's more to it than that. Personally, I think the Scots hate themselves for living off us, rather in the fashion of a teenager or twentysomething who lives off their parents and hates his parents because he hates himself for living off them.

The current union reminds me of an unhappy marriage where someone despises their spouse, partly because they despise themself for not having the courage to leave the marriage when they'd end up with less money.

As Michael Portillo said in a recent column, there's no reason why the Scots couldn't make their own way in the world, particularly when an independent Scotland would be larger than, or as big as, many existing EU members. EU membership would also cut down on the costs associated with being an independent state.

As a Labour Party member, I might be expected to bemoan the loss of so many Scots MPs, when Labour only wins the English vote in landslide years such as 1945, 1997 and 2001. This is, however, to forget that, even in May last year, Labour won a majority of seats in England (even if the Tories won the popular vote).

The answer for me would be PR, and an overdue re-alignment of parties. The Portillistas and Cameroons could join up with the LD Orange Bookers, the Cornerstone Group could join up with UKIP, the Labour left could join up with the LD left (Phil Willis and Diane Abbott), while the Brownite and Blairite modernisers might get on a hell of a lot better when the Brownites stop flashing their bits (metaphorically, of course) at a Labour left with which it really doesn't have anything in common and which (as mentioned earlier) would have joined up with the likes of Phil Willis.

And in terms of Scots MPs we'd lose? Brown is far from indispensable when we've got Alan Johnson (or Hillary Benn), and we can live without the likes of Des Browne. As for Douglas Alexander, who I've got a lot of time for, he could get himself an English seat (like many other Scots-born Labour MPs representing English seats, and who - unlike English-born MPs representing Scots seats - aren't the subject of intimidatory campaigns by groups such as SettlerWatch).

The quality of Scots MPs at Holyrood would probably be greatly improved by all the fun and glamour of being an independent nation state.

All in all, it would be almost certainly for the best. It might, in fact, be like one of those divorces where a couple, once they don't have to live with each other and squabble about money, become very good friends.

Why is there (on the whole) far less anti-English racism in Eire than in Scotland? Because it's independent. The Irish can revel in defining themselves by who they are, as opposed to the Scots defining themselves in opposition to England (certainly on the football pitch). They don't have to define themselves in chippy antipathy to partners in a United Kingdom who subsidise their lifestyle(s).

Richard said...

Re. the prospect of a velvet divorce with Scotland, does anyone here know whether the Czechs and Slovaks support anyone who can beat the other country's team since the two countries peacefully went their separate ways in 1993?

And how many (if any) decent players will the newly independent Montenegro take from the Serbia & Montenegro team which has had its last hurrah at this World Cup?