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Public spending per head in Scotland revealed

Scotland has a greater spending per head than England and Wales. Gareth Easton

Scotland has a greater spending per head than England and Wales. Gareth Easton

  • by SCOTT MACNAB
 

SCOTS enjoy £1,300 more spending per head on public services such as the NHS and schools than the average UK citizen, official figures have shown.

Only Northern Ireland gets more, according to a Treasury report, while spending in England is the lowest of the four home nations.

There is mounting anger south of the Border over public spending, with demands for a “fairer” share of the pot and for the “out-of-date” Barnett funding system, through which expenditure is distributed to the nations of the UK, to be scrapped.

The figures showed Scotland’s spending on public order and safety was the lowest in the UK, after a significant cut in the past year saw it fall behind England and Wales.

Spending levels are at the heart of the independence debate, with pro-Union campaigners insisting Scots get a good deal out of the UK, although Nationalists insist Scotland is short-changed after what it puts into Treasury coffers in taxes.

Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said: “These figures demonstrate that the people of Scotland continue to see a real financial benefit of over £1,300 per person compared to the UK average.”

He added: “The UK remains the most successful economic and political union in history, and Scotland is one of its greatest success stories. It makes no sense to put this at risk through separation.”

Spending on services such as economic affairs, the NHS and schooling – but excluding defence – is £10,151 for the average Scot. This compares with about £8,787 across the UK.

Northern Ireland has the highest levels of spending, at £10,876 per head; in Wales, the figure is £9,707, while England is the lowest on £8,528, according to data from the Country and Regional Analysis.

Health service spending in Scotland, at £2,115 per head, is the highest in the UK. The economic affairs budget, at £992, is also the highest in the UK.

Spending in Scotland on public order and safety is now the lowest in the UK, following a significant drop to £455 in 2012-13, from £513 the year before. This compares with £462 in England and £465 in Wales.

There is growing anger in England over its relatively poor share of the funding pot. An overhaul of the way funding is shared out among the home nations – the population-based Barnett formula – is now being called for, with demands for a more needs-based approach.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association in England said yesterday: “This is more evidence that the Barnett formula has passed its use-by date.

“It is an historic relic which is short-changing English communities and underfunding their public services by £4.1 billion a year. We now need a fair and equitable distribution of public money across the Union.”

But Nationalists have warned such a move would see Scotland lose out to the tune of about £4 billion.

The SNP’s finance secretary, John Swinney, said: “With councillors from all three Westminster parties joining in the call for Scotland’s funding to be cut, it is clear that the only way to protect Scotland’s finances and ensure fair settlements for all is with a vote for independence and the ability to grow our economy and determine our own future.

“As official figures show, Scotland has paid more in tax per head than the rest of the UK in each of the last 30 years and we contribute a higher share of UK revenues than we receive in public spending.”

The overall figures yesterday were in line with the previous year’s data. Out of just under £560 billion of spending in 2012-13, England accounts for £456bn, compared with £54bn in Scotland.

Pro-independence campaigners say the most recent Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland (GERS) figures show that Scotland contributes 9.9 per cent of UK tax revenues, but gets just 9.3 per cent of public spending. It means Scotland generates an average of £11,079 in taxes, compared with £9,342 for the rest of the UK.

Nationalist Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Annabelle Ewing accused pro-Union campaigners of painting a “distorted picture” of Scotland’s finances.

“When both sides of the balance sheet are looked at together, Scotland more than pays its way in the UK,” she said.

“Over the five years to 2011-12, Scotland has been financially stronger than the UK as a whole to the tune of £12.6 billion.

“And Scotland has contributed more tax per head than the rest of the UK in each and every one of the last 32 years – proving we can more than afford to be a successful independent country.”

She added: “The No side never have a positive word to say – even to the extent of talking down Scotland’s abundant resources and broad revenue base.

“A Yes vote means making the wealth of Scotland work for the people of Scotland, a No vote means Scotland’s budget being slashed.”

But a spokesman for the official pro-Union Better Together campaign said the latest statistics had undermined SNP claims that Scotland suffered at the hands of UK policies.

“These figures underline the fact that we have the best of both worlds here in Scotland,” he said.

“We have a Scottish parliament making decisions about our health, our education and our police, and we have the strength and security of being part of the United Kingdom.

“Devolution works. Independence would end it and would be a huge leap into the unknown.”

 

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