Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Barnett calls for his formula to be scrapped (again)

Poor old Joel Barnett.  He would no doubt like to be remembered for being an effective Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the Callaghan government and for being, along with his old boss Denis Healey, one of two surviving nonagenarians who served in that administration.

Instead his name is forever linked to the wretched funding formula which he devised in 1978 as a short-term fix and which, 36 years later, still ensures average public spending per head in Scotland is some £1,600 more than in England and Wales.

Barnett has long been embarrassed by his formula and first called for it to be scrapped when appearing before the Treasury Select Committee in 1998.

In 2004, he went further, calling for his name to be taken off it.   This was reported at the time by myself and my then Journal colleague David Higgerson and our story can still be found at an online archive.

Now he has repeated his call in the wake of the absurd pledge by Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to guarantee the formula's survival in perpetuity in the event of a no vote to independence in tomorrow's referendum.

He told The Telegraph: "It is unfair and should be stopped, it is a mistake. This way is terrible and can never be sustainable, it is a national embarrassment and personally embarrassing to me as well."

Lord Barnett is now 90.   Is it too much to hope that he may yet live to see his wish fulfilled?

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