Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is Middle Britain finally starting to wake up to Barnett?

The Barnett Formula is usually presented as an item of political arcania of interest only to those of extreme anorak tendencies, but today's Daily Mail front page about the consequences of Scotland's great public spending power demonstrates that it is not.

As I have been arguing for most of the past decade, both on this blog and in numerous columns in the Newcastle Journal, the fact that public spending north of the border is some £1,200 per head higher than in England has real implications for real public services that affect real people. It was only a matter of time before someone came up with a really emotive example that brings the story to life, and the row over blindness drugs has seemingly done that.

What is set to make the situation even more combustible is that the new Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is also highly critical of the Barnett Formula - not for the same reasons as many English MPs, but because he thinks it doesn't go far enough.

I've been saying for a long time that, one day, the need for reform of this unfair and outdated formula will become a political issue of the first order. I suspect I won't have that much longer to wait.

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15 comments:

Toque said...

What is so depressing is the fact that it takes something like this for an obvious and ongoing injustice to be taken seriously by MPs and the press.

Where are all the moral compasses that we hear about these days? Why wasn't something done sooner? Why are MPs always reactive (usually in response to public hostility, or news that will provoke public hostility) rather than proactive?

Is there anyone outside Scottish nationalist circles that think the Barnett Formula is in any way justifiable as an equalisation measure (which is it's justification, it was never intended to be an oil rebate)?

If the Tories leap on this bandwagon I will be overjoyed (about bloody time). But it will leave me even more disgusted with our politicians. Even with this blindness story the Barnett formula is no better or worse than it was the same time last week.

dk said...

Some things swing elections that shouldn't; some should that don't.

GB's raid on private sector pensions, and the Barnett settlement are firmly, and unmoveably, in category two.

Richard Bailey said...

A keen observer of politics like yourself knows well the consequences of tackling the Barnett formula.
The opportunity has gone: the SNP have secured a foothold, and the only outcome of Barnett reorganisation is the break up of the Union.

Labour's ineptitude in managing this chapter of politics is quite breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

So clearly equal access to the NHS is now a thing of the past,add to this the racist higher education policy in Scotland and the circus is in full flow.

The overall situation will now be higher profile when Brown takes over.

John,

Mark B said...

Off-topic but just to let you know, in case you are interested and haven't heard yet, it was indeed Roy Hattersley who Blair described as a cunt. It's in last week's Private Eye, and I don't think they are merely assuming its Hattersley, they sound certain (some people thought it may have been Bryan Gould, we of course never hear much of him anymore as he's back in New Zealand but he has been fairly scathing about Blair). Apparently Rawnsley is believed to have felt awkward about revealing it was Hattersley as he writes for the Observer's sister paper, the Guardian.

Anonymous said...

The solution is simple.

All revenues raised in Scotland should stay in Scotland. Then there would be no need for a Barnett Formula.

If Scotland and the rest of the UK continue to share certain public services then Scotland should pay for her share of them.

Problem solved - but it seems unlikely that you will argue for this as you are so dead set against Scottish independence.

Anonymous said...

Whilst something does clearly need to be done, the fact is that public spending per head in the UK is highest in the north-west and north-east of England. The Barnett formula is outdated but it isn't quite so simple as to fire all ammo at Scotland.

Richard Thomson said...

See when you were writing these columns for the Newcastle Journal, did you ever take the chance to berate your readers for getting over £1000 more per head than the English average, or is that just something you reserve for the Scots?

Identifiable Spending Per Head 06/07 (Source - PESA 2007, HM Treasury)

North East - £8177
North West - £7798
Yorks & Humber - £7188
East Mids - £6491
West Mids - £7065
Eastern - £6,144
South East - £6304
South West - £6677
London - £8404
Scotland - £8623
Wales - £8139
N. Ireland - £9385

Political Penguin said...

Anonymous raises a curious point: "All revenues raised in Scotland should stay in Scotland. Then there would be no need for a Barnett Formula."

So I take it that Scotland can keep all that lovely oil money that they've been handing over for the last 30 years to the UK Government and how about a bit of compensation for all that wealth that's been creamed off Scottish territorial assets over that time. No didn't think so. On that, please remind me which other bit of the UK contributes towards oil revenues?

Anonymous said...

The Barnett formula is outdated but it isn't quite so simple as to fire all ammo at Scotland.


See when you were writing these columns for the Newcastle Journal, did you ever take the chance to berate your readers for getting over £1000 more per head than the English average, or is that just something you reserve for the Scots?

To both these new labour posters:

Fire ammo at scotland?

Oh we're just firing back your ammo. You know, the constantly griping, whining type of ammo that the victim jocks throw out.

"Berate your English readers"?

He doesnt have to do that. Do you berate Gordon Brown and Tony Blair for stealing English tax payer's money? For stealing English elderly people's hard earned pension funds? For murdering them by denying them drugs for their blindness and cancer. Do you fucking berate those scotch bastards for anything? No! So as the drunk beggar said to the English commuter got any spare change mate i'm saying to you the free ride is over jimmy! Stop being a victim and stop using other people's money to do it!

skipper said...

It should be remembered too that Joel Barnett himself is a critic of the Barnett Formula and never intended it to work as it currently does.

Anglo Saxophone said...

You need to take a lie down, anonymous. You'll do yourself a mischief if you keep ranting like that.

Enzyme therapy. A COPD strategy. Liposuction for overweight kids. All treatments authorised for use in the NHS in England but not Scotland.

Taking Scotland's oil money so you can suck the fat out of your lardy-arsed kids... can't wait for the searing expose in the Daily Mail about that one. Oops, silly me. That would mean presenting a balanced picture - not nearly so satisfying as a good old rant about the sweaty socks stealing bread from English mouths...

Keep it coming, though. Another year or two of your ignorant, racist racist bilge and Scotland will be voting SNP en masse. Can't wait :-)

Anonymous said...

To the poster at 23.10 on June 15th - fair do's you are entitled to your opinion but you shouldn't presume too much...I could never, ever vote Labour. I voted Conservative at the last election and will probably do so at the next one as well!

Ted Harvey said...

As always happens when a certain group of people who think of themselves as 'English' try to comment on 'British' politics, they betray an utter ignorance about the subject.

Take the first poster 'tongue'. He asks;
"Is there anyone outside Scottish nationalist circles that think the Barnett Formula is in any way justifiable as an equalisation measure"

Blimmy mate, the very fact that the original article states that SNP Leader Samond does not believe that Barnet goes far enough, shows that it's not the Nationalists who support. It it was a Labour-invented but cross-party (UK) supported policy. And as others pointed out, the highest regional public expenditure levels are not to be found in Scotland.

He then states that Barnett:

"was never intended to be an oil rebate"

He is very wrong and betrays a lack of understanding about the bigger 'game' here. Barnett, and the consequent higher public expenditure in Scotland, were designed as a consolation bribe to the Scottish electorate to stop them getting focused on the oil revenue question.

Following on from the last point, I hope that Anon posting at 10.32 takes on board what others have said about his point about keeping English revenues in England and Scottish revenues in Scotland - so long as that extends to oil that's fine by those of us in Scotland with a selfish bent.

But the ignorance of English voters on just how selfishly well they have done out of oil is akin to the average English person's ignorance in the 19th century about their colonial masters' deliberate destruction of the Indian cotton industries to protect the home-based (and uneconomic) English cotton industry.

Seems that an Imperialist mindset is still alive and well and unapologetic among a set of people who think of themselves as 'English'.

stephen rouse said...

There's a certain historical irony here. The Act of Union was born entirely out of Scottish self-interest. They realised it was the only way to get their hands on an overseas empire once the Darien Project had failed. For more than two centuries, while the going was good, the Scots merrily participated in the British Empire's plundering of the human and material resources of the world. And now you feel a little exploited by the nasty old imperialist English? Tell you what, when the city of Glasgow makes restitution to the people of West Africa for its part in the slave trade, we'll give you a refund for the oil.