Is Scotland Going Scots-Free?
English Question Extra Spending Going to Scotland

According to official figures government spending in Scotland is higher than in England. This is arousing resentment in England.

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Amiel Ungar,

Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament

When government coffers are full and spending is lavish, there is less enthusiasm for assuring an equitable distribution of public money. Now that the British government is making extensive cuts as part of its austerity policy, the issue of equitability has resurfaced.

An analysis of official treasury figures shows that the average of 10,212 pounds spent per person in Scotland is 1,624 pounds higher than the corresponding spending figure for England. The extra money means that in areas entrusted to the Scottish government, a resident of Glasgow will get more benefits than a resident of Leeds.

These benefits include free prescriptions, at-home care for the elderly, free university tuition, meals in primary schools and recently, payments of cancer drugs.

The disparity between England and Scotland has led some English commentators and politicians to label the Scots "subsidy junkies". English annoyance is also fueled by being constantly on the receiving end of charges that Scotland has been shortchanged.

In 1978 a treasury official named Joel Barnett, who has received a knighthood, wrote a formula that allocated a set percentage of the budget for Scotland and Wales. This ratio may have seemed reasonable in 1978, but since then England's population has substantially increased while Scotland's has remained static.

Some view the financial favoritism toward Scotland as a form of bribe to keep Scotland from seceding. Sentiment in England is growing to let the Scots have their way and leave.

Politics are also involved. The British Conservative party is extremely weak in Scotland ,while the Labour Party competes with the Scottish National Party over power in Scotland and electing Members of Parliament in London.

If Scotland were to secede, this would sharply tilt the political balance in England towards the Conservatives. Despite this reality, British Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, has announced that he would oppose any referendum calling for Scottish independence and he is committed to preserving the United Kingdom.

The Scots counter with figures that show that Scotland needs more benefits because its population is dispersed over a wider area. Secondly Scotland receives less money on average then Northern Ireland and, for that matter, London. T

There is also debate on how to calculate the revenue from North Sea oil and gas which would accrue to Scotland if it declared independence. The English argue that the extra spending covers the North Sea revenues; the Scots disagree.

As is frequently the case, extra spending money does not necessarily achieve better results. Douglas McWilliams, who heads the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a think tank, has charged that given the low growth Scottish economy and a tax and spend mentality ,Scotland would end up by 2030 as a "Third World tourist destination".