Budget to bury

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On 11 March 2015, the Scottish Office published the Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland for March 2013-14.

The facts included:

• Scotland contributed £10,100 per person of UK tax and received £12,500 of UK spending. This meant in 2013-14, each person in Scotland received around £2,300 more in spending than they contributed in tax.

• Scotland has received more spending per head than the UK for the last 30 years.
Each person in Scotland received £1,200 more in spending than people in the rest of the UK, while contributing £400 per person extra tax.
• Scotland’s borrowing was £800 per head more than the rest of the UK, meaning Scotland would have to additionally tax every one of its citizens. The figure for 2012-13 was £500; and
• Including a population share of North Sea Revenue, there was a current budget deficit of £13.4 billion and on the same basis, a net fiscal deficit of £16.0bn.

The Report for March 2014-15 will be published in the next few weeks and will only reflect approximately a small part of last year’s crash in oil prices.
I doubt the Scottish Government will be heralding either its publication or content. 

Jimmy Armstrong, Abergeldie Road, Ballater, Aberdeenshire

Bad bet, Alex

So Alex Salmond is betting that there’d be no impact if Donald Trump were to pull his assets out of Scotland. He’s betting that there’d be no impact to jobs at Turnberry and Menie. He’s betting buyers could be easily found.

Let’s remind ourselves of the last public bet Mr Salmond made: betting a journalist that the oil price would not fall below $50... well, we all know how that went. Mr Salmond’s reaction? To chase his losses in a double-or-nothing punt that oil wouldn’t be below $50 by the end of 2015. It was $36.

Frankly, I’d be more comfortable if Mr Salmond would stick to betting with his own money and not the jobs of hard-working people in Scotland or, worse still, the £7.5 billion of missing oil revenues his white paper for independence forecast.

Fraser Whyte

Barclay Park, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire

Black gold curse

Like many others, Colin Hamilton (Letter, 16 January) suggests that the prosperity of an independent Scotland depends on the price of oil. This is contradicted by the relatively prosperous survival of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, among others.

Norway has oil, and has used the income from it sensibly – unlike the UK. The other three do not. The citizens of these independent countries enjoy much better living standards and social services than we do in Scotland (having family in Denmark, I take an interest in this).

With or without oil, a sovereign independent Scotland could expect, like our Scandinavian neighbours, to give our own people a good standard of living and to play a constructive role in world affairs.

David Stevenson

Blacket Place, Edinburgh

Alex Salmond was one of the very few politicians who opposed the first gulf war in 1991. He and the SNP have opposed every Middle East military intervention since. True, these interventions have maintained our access to cheap oil, but at a huge cost in blood, treasure, human misery, and now social stability in European countries.

That cheap oil is now not even seen as an indisputable good. It is bad in the long term for the climate and pollution, and in the short term for the North Sea oil industry and the American shale oil industry.
Maybe Mr Salmond was right, but at a minimum his was a valid opposition policy. And perhaps in 20 years we will see that Mr Salmond was indeed right, along with the 98.5 per cent of scientists who warn of the dangers of global warming, a figure mentioned by Andrew Neil in a recent ­edition of the BBC’s This Week.

George Shering

West Acres Drive, Newport-on-Tay

Scott Arthur (Letters, 18 January) lists the employment activities of Alex Salmond and concludes that for Mr Salmond, being an MP is not a full-time job. This might explain why the UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (who is threatening to impose an unwelcome contract on junior doctors in England and Wales) managed to earn £970,000 from his private company, over and above his £134,000 salary. 

Douglas Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Village idiocy

Now that the dust is settling on the Paris climate summit it is worth noting a consequence of the European Union having signed up collectively to reduce its “carbon emissions”.

Germany and France now insist that Britain’s disproportionately generous contribution to the EU’s collective target means that other EU nations’ reductions can be scaled back.

Only in global warming’s twilight zone would such an outrageous stunt be contemplated and as the EU’s village idiot we are clearly too stupid to be allowed out alone in Brussels.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews, Fife

Union wreckers

I sincerely hope that the ­common sense with which I credit most of the electorate will prevail and that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and his like never win a general election.

I speak of his latest pronouncement that any union should be able to call its members out on strike in support of another union – secondary action – even through the “backing” union is not involved in the issue.

Of course, this is music to the ears of the likes of Unite’s leader Len McCluskey – a character who would happily bring the country to its knees to further his narrow-minded objectives. 

Sadly we also have Nicola Sturgeon supporting a relaxation in union laws. Of course, she and Labour’s Kezia Dugdale are both too young to remember the chaos caused by the unions during the 70s and 80s. Fortunately, a large part of the electorate does and will vote accordingly.

Michael Hogg

Craigfoot Walk, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Labour’s deficit

Higher taxation is not a solution to Labour’s budget deficit.

Dr S J Clarke persists in peddling his desire for higher taxation in association with the tendency of his cherished Labour Party.(Letters 18 January).

The cuts in train are founded upon Labour’s accumulated budget deficit of £160 billion they left in 2010. This can be associated with the one million increase in public sector jobs they implemented – that is supported by an average gross annual cost of £30,000 each, and borrowing £30bn each year to pay for it.

It would mean eliminating these simply to stop the £30bn continuing, but that would leave the £160bn deficit intact, still to be dealt with. By implicitly requiring the present UK Conservative government to replace cuts with an income tax increase, Dr Clarke would be saddling current taxpayers with a 6p tax burden for about six years to eliminate the balance of the deficit and the consequential interest payments.

In effect, he would be passing the blame for the debt on to his hated Tory government – it would always be their tax imposition, and forcing current UK employees to pay the wages and salaries incurred, but not paid for, back to when Labour were in power.

But, what would the effects of that be on the economy, Dr Clarke?

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent, Currie, Edinburgh

One-legged nag

The absurdity of the excessive payments to wind farm operators to not generate electricity is hard to fathom out. Perhaps this explanation could help.

Imagine the scenario.

A punter walks into the bookies to put £50 on his favourite horse “Windy Gamble” to win in the National Grid Stakes.

No guarantees he will be lucky but worth a punt he thinks.

The bookmaker declines his bet. “Sorry mate too many runners in that race. Windy Gamble has been stood down. However, the owner is demanding £60 to keep him in the stable and you have to pay for it.”

Why would anyone pay anything in that sort of situation? Well, we all do. Every time wind is constrained off the wind operators are paid more than if they were generating electricity and we pay for it. We may all just as well throw our money away at the bookies. Wind is erratic and volatile and has to be constrained off to protect the grid from overload and to prevent blackouts.

When will the policymakers accept that backing wind gives us an energy source that is difficult for the grid to manage, will always need other reliable energy as back up and is only about 25 per cent efficient? It’s a bit like a one-legged racehorse. It just doesn’t stand up.

Lyndsey Ward

Beauly, Inverness-shire

Clean sweep

I would like to suggest a ­simple solution to the air quality problem in Edinburgh’s ­St John’s Road (Ilona Amos’s report on the most polluted roads in Scotland, 18 January).

Part of the problem is caused by vehicles having to remain stationary between traffic lights. Vehicles get through one set only to be held up at the next set.

Why not synchronise the lights to allow a flow of traffic along the main road – all green or red at the same time? On a visit to Cadiz in Spain, I saw this system working really well on the mile-long main avenue into the city centre. No need for a council junket to see it. Just do it.

Donald Thomson

Sighthill, Edinburgh

Of interest

At the Scottish Policy Conference, held last weekend, Kezia Dugdale called for the Treasury to write off the interest payments built up by local authorities before devolution. It must have caused consternation in the Conservative Party, as well as in her own party, that a major problem was identified publicly that could not be blamed on the SNP.

There must be serious anxiety among the old political parties that such a dangerous precedent has been set.

(Dr) Peter M Dryburgh

Falcon Avenue, Edinburgh