Answers required

Brian Monteith’s call for Scotland to raise in tax most of what it spends (Perspective, 14 July) is to be welcomed. More details of his views would also be welcome – what degree of control should Scotland have over what taxes? Why raise only most of what Scotland spends?

He complains about Nationalist “mendacity” over the Barnett formula, in particular that Nationalists misrepresent the risk to Scottish health spending from cuts in English health spending.

He correctly says it is a matter for the Scottish Government to prioritise its spending, and therefore how much is spent on health is a matter for the Scottish Government.

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However, he fails to say the Barnett formula applies both to increases and reductions in expenditure. This means policy changes for England can in practice force policy changes in Scotland. The UK Government’s austerity programme is passed on to Scotland.

There are likely to be problems for Scotland as the two countries diverge politically.

For instance, if the UK Government decided to move to private insurance-based health funding for England (and given its present direction of travel, that seems entirely possible), the result would be a huge cut in health spending (since the cost of NHS treatment would be paid by the private insurance system).

This reduction would be passed on to Scotland by operation of the Barnett formula. Since health represents one third of Scottish Government expenditure, what practical choice would the Scottish Government be left with but to privatise too?

Perhaps Mr Montieth could, to ensure no-one is misled, confirm this in his next article.

Robert Seaton

Bedford Court