After Barnett

Peter Jones (Perspective, 23 April) confuses the effect of cuts with any reduction on a needs-based assessment.

He omitted to mention that only England, of the four UK components, receives annual enhancement on the basis of perceived need; keeping to Scotland, our Barnett share does not relate to need, either for more, or for less money.

In any event, England’s need is based on affordability, and what it receives is distributed to its various regional bodies.

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The House of Lords carried out a study a couple of years ago to assess the prospects for Scotland of a needs-based Barnett formula, similar to the Holtham study mentioned by Mr Jones.

The Lords’ study, and that carried out by Professor David Bell of Stirling University using Holtham, each found that Scotland would stand to lose about £5 billion – the latter allowing for us to have 5 per cent more funding per head than England.

In any event, as well as assessing the thorny problem of need, or rather relative need, in expenditure terms, the needs funding would be predicated upon central funding, with the nations and regions (for England) still having the ability to raise their own revenue, for example, through council tax – and that should not be used as an excuse to short-change with high levels of that other income.

So, we could have needs-based funding, but not needs-based expenditure.

It so happens that the current round of cuts, prompted by Labour’s £160bn public sector deficit, will take out about £5bn and that equates roughly to the loss of a 20 per cent advantage from a block grant of £25bn.

So, coincidentally, the cuts will achieve precisely what these studies found was the extant of Scotland’s excess funding.

Paradoxically, that enhances Scotland’s prospects for viability with independence, or, with a No vote (but with proper levers of power) to make a fresh start regarding assessing ­adequate levels of public services, and to contradict the unionist attitude that we could not do so.

And it would render Barnett obsolete with no need to relate to England’s per capita comparison. And that means we would not bear a per capita reduction as well as a cuts reduction, 
because the latter would achieve the desired result – without Barnett, as Peter Jones claims.

Douglas R Mayer


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The trouble with the SNP’s so-called local income tax (LIT), which it proposed in the last parliament, was that it was far from local. Rather than an LIT it was an SIT, or Scottish income tax, as the same rate was to be levied by Holyrood from Unst to ­Stranraer. A truly local income tax, such as is supported by the Liberal Democrats, allows each council to set its own rate as it sees fit for its area’s particular needs, thus increasing local accountability.

However, my understanding is that the Liberal Democrats in Holyrood were willing to accept this centralised model as a starting point to get away from the council tax, provided that after the first year or so the power to set the rate was passed to the councils.

It appears that the SNP, though, preferred keeping central control over local authority spending to replacing the discredited and unfair council tax, as it then announced it was abandoning any change because “there was no consensus” for it in the parliament.

However, if that was the only reason, then why has the matter not been resurrected given that the SNP now has an overall majority in Holyrood and the power to do whatever it likes?

It should also be remembered that the so-called concordat with local authorities, in reality a stranglehold over them, was only supposed to be a temporary measure until the council tax was abolished.

As the current Holyrood government seems perfectly happy to keep the council tax, why has it not ended the concordat and thus allowed democratically electedcouncils to decide their own priorities and fund them accordingly?

Jane Ann Liston

Member, North East Fife Liberal Democrats

St Andrews

Hugh Mackay (Letters, 23 April) and Peter Jones both mention The Barnett formula. Before Barnett we had The Goschen formula, which seemed rather more generous to Scotland.

If we choose independence we can dispense with such 
formulas and make our own decisions about how to use our resources and how to share them in co-operation with others.

David Stevenson