Finance arguments can enter murky waters - Readers' Letters

The main argument presented by those of your correspondents opposed to Scottish independence is the assertion that, under the distribution of expenditure to the nations of the United Kingdom and the English regions, Scotland enjoys through the Barnett formula a disproportionate share, currently just over 11 per cent above the UK average total identifiable public spending per person. The assertion goes on that this is subsidy, and that an independent Scotland could not survive without it unless social and other expenditures were reduced well below current levels.

Scotland's financial position post-independence is a major source of disagreement between nationalists and unionists
Scotland's financial position post-independence is a major source of disagreement between nationalists and unionists

There are a number of observations to offer about this. The first is that the figures relate only to identifiable expenditure, amounting to about 90 per cent of total expenditure. The remainder, which covers items like defence and overseas representation, cannot be reliably ascribed to any part of the UK. The content of the figures is also skewed by, for example, the inclusion in Scotland’s case of expenditure on water and sewerage because here, but not in England, these functions remain within the public sector.

A second is that the focus is always on the Scotland/UK differential, but Northern Ireland is the principal beneficiary. Quite right too: Northern Ireland is represented at Westminster by the right kind of politician, willing to support the Conservatives on issues such as Brexit.

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One may ask also why the figures for England are always presented as an average and never broken down by English region. Surprise, surprise: total identifiable public spending per person in London in 2020-21 was the highest in the UK, above Northern Ireland and well above Scotland. The East Midlands region comes out by far the worst, but that is for them to raise with their government.

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The lesson is plain: public sector finance is a murky area, susceptible to misrepresentation and selective quotation by Unionists, but the underlying reality is that, for an independent Scotland, the patterns of income and expenditure currently determined by Westminster are irrelevant.

James Scott, Edinburgh

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Sunak waits

20,000 Covid daily infections recorded in Scotland on 3 January begs the question: “What more evidence does Chancellor Rishi Sunak need?”

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The number of infections in the UK has been rising alarmingly, yet no new restrictions from Westminster, no support for businesses, no alarm bells ringing.

Staff shortages due to Covid in our crucial NHS and social services, businesses crumbling, shouts from Holyrood and other devolved politicians all with the same message: when will ‘furlough’ be reintroduced and when will England get in line with the devolved nations regarding restrictions?

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2022 brings with it crunch time and the Chancellor must step up to demands being made, no more dithering, no more wait and see, the evidence is clear, we need to protect our NHS, social care and public services now.

The devolved nations await action from Westminster, because it is only when Westminster is moved to action that consequential support for public services and business will arrive through the Barnett consequential – so over to you, Chancellor.

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Catriona C Clark, Falkirk

Coalition’s best

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As one who is just old enough to remember the Second World War, I was one of many millions who understood that, for the benefit of our nation, party politics had to be laid to one side between 1939 and 1945: things were so dire that unity was really the only way forward.

In 2022 we are not fighting people, but we have most definitely been fighting a much more subtle enemy, the Covid virus, for two years now. Yet during that lengthy period that brought both illness and death, the population of our islands has been witness to our elected parliamentarians verbally abusing each other over petty things, like whether some political get-together on a lawn was "legal" or not!

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And while we are one "island group” and have one central government at Westminster, we have been subjected to different local anti-Covid directions put forward on behalf of various political parties.

I say to our politicians: Let's have less inter-party squabbling so that we can all move forward as one country and as a united coalition until we win this war against Covid.

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Archibald A Lawrie, Kingskettle, Fife

Rare species

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We all know that dodos are dead and gone and sadly it would appear that we are in the process of losing another couple of endangered species: GPs and Pcs.

General Practitioners have almost totally disappeared and are increasingly difficult to find as their surgeries are almost impenetrable and well guarded by receptionists who ensure that you cannot reach them, whilst Police Constables seem to no longer exist on the streets where they used to roam regularly. One would be extremely lucky to catch sight of one of these rare creatures.

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So what will the next endangered species be? Unfortunately not politicians or so-called medical experts who bombard us with theories which are not backed up with factual evidence.

George Storey, Hawick, Scottish Borders

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Listen up

It hardly surprising that Radio Scotland comes across as amateurish on many occasions (Letters, 4 January), as it is forced to be all things to all men when niche channels are the norm elsewhere.

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As GWS Barrow said in 1979, in his inaugural lecture as Professor of Scottish History in the University of Edinburgh: "The failure of Scotland to establish its own organisation for public service broadcasting was the greatest cultural disaster which Scotland suffered in the 20th century."

By way of contrast, the public broadcaster RTE in Ireland has ten radio channels including intelligent speech, several music channels and even a children’s channel. Also, RTE only pays £22.5m a year to get the pick of the BBC’s best TV programmes while ignoring the dross and the licence fee is free for over-70s.

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The BBC continues to short change Scotland as the latest annual report reveals that only 51 per cent of the funding raised in Scotland is spent in Scotland compared to 71 per cent in Northern Ireland and 64 per cent in Wales. Unwittingly, letter writer Derek Farmer is making the case for a distinctive Scottish Broadcasting Corporation.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

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Write to The Scotsman

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