Given his undoubted incisiveness and near forensic scrutiny of all things SNP, I am surprised that Dr Scott Arthur has not solved what he sees as the problem of the SNP appearing to procrastinate on the introduction of full fiscal autonomy (Letters, July).
We have to go back a while. In the post-war years, successive unionist governments at Westminster poured extra money into Scotland to thwart the perceived threat from the nationalists – the irony of that, and where we are now, will not be lost on Dr Arthur.
That extra money is still circulating within our £25 billion block grant.
It is reflected in the near 20 per cent per head advantage we have over England, so our excess is about £5bn.
One effect of the Barnett formula is to return to us, in the centrally funded block grant, the tax we are obliged to ship off to the UK Exchequer.
The other is to claw back the post-war money. It works like this: if England receives £100, we receive £120.
As our year-on-year enhancement is on a straight population ratio with England: if England receives 5 per cent, they receive £5, and we also receive £5, but that is worth only 4 per cent on our £120, and that 1 per cent shortfall on our block grant cuts about £250 million from our available funding.
It so happens that the next tranche of cuts coming our way is rumoured to be around £5bn.
As that equates to our excess funding, that would, at a stroke, reduce our per capita funding down to parity with that of England, while, at the same time, greatly assisting our viability with full fiscal autonomy.
Undeniably, cuts will happen. My assessment of the trick the SNP is playing (some would say it’s a dirty trick!) is that it is dodging the cuts going through under its name, preferring instead for the blame to be attached to the present Conservative government, which, after all, is only being forced to repair the £160bn deficit damage done by the previous Labour government in its 13 wasted years.
Incidentally, for this purpose, we can ignore the fact that England would also suffer cuts, because the agenda is full fiscal autonomy, which would render Barnett obsolete.
D R Mayer