Thursday, October 25, 2007

Counting the Cost

I hadn't intended to post this clip, which appeared on Iain Dale's Diary earlier in the week:

At the end of the day, most of the figures quoted have been floating around for quite a while and, in essense, there is nothing wrong with differential levels of public spending to reflect regional needs. However, having seen it posted in other places now where it always seems to attract the same kind of one-eyed comments I thought it was worth giving it another airing.

The issue, as far as I'm concerned is not that Scotland and, to a lesser extent Wales, may offer higher grade public services, but how they should be paid for.

Had an elected Scottish Parliament chosen to exercise their limited authority to levy additional taxes to fund this differential level of provision of services there would be no issue, but this has not been done. Had other services been cut so that these priority areas could be better funded that again would be a choice for Scotland, but most areas that both SNP and Scottish Labour MSPs would like to cut are reserved to Westminster, and as such there appear to have been no such cuts. If Scotland had discovered ways of finding efficiency gains of the order required to make these enhanced service levels, the world would have beaten its way to their door, but the world hasn't.

In the absence of any other explanation, the only plausible culprit for this discriminatory situation can be the inequities of the Barnett formula. It is an equation that is broken, having clearly gone before it's intent of creating a level playing field. Even when the genuine additional costs of providing services in Scotland are taken into account it is now clear that Scottish administrations have an enormous 'disposable income' that the rest of the county simply doesn't have.

Surly, even considering how important Scottish votes may be to Brown at the next general election, he cannot be blind in both eyes to the dangers of allowing the inevitable anger that such patent unfairness will inevitably engender.

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859

Today de Tocqueville's words may have more relevance to the Union than an American Republic already well acustomed to the taste of pork barrel polictics.

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