Give them FFA and see who will bleed
DESPITE one or two SNP MPs waking up to the awful and unpalatable truth that their full fiscal autonomy (FFA) demand would mean Scotland emulating Greece rather than Norway in economic terms, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie says that that is exactly what the Nationalists are going to push for (your report, 11 June).
Of course, this is a game of dare in which the SNP will demand FFA in the full expectation it will be withheld. The Nationalists will then claim to their adoring electorate that “Scotland” has been denied its “right” to live on its own income, barring defence and one or two other collective UK and European Union matters.
This will fit with their usual conflation of what their leaders want in terms of power and what they claim to be in Scotland’s interests.
However, an interesting scene may unfold, if one plays devil’s advocate. Many Conservatives, sick of SNP whining, may just say OK. Have it your own way. It saves us a heap of money. Be it on your own shoulders.
These are the same Conservatives who are causing David Cameron grief over the EU and acceding to their demands may mean that he can buy some time for his negotiations with Europe.
If defence is retained, this may play well with the English electorate who will have less austerity as a result, while Scotland gets it big time. Perhaps, by playing their little game, the Nationalists are being so sharp, they will cut themselves. Sadly, that means the Scottish people will bleed for them.
Andrew HN Gray
PERHAPS it should not be a surprise to see Angus Robertson MP push for FFA, via an amendment to the Scotland Bill. However, earlier this week on BBC2’s Scotland 2015, he was reduced to talking non-stop for as long as possible as a means of avoiding an awkward question, in this case “when would the SNP want FFA to start?”
Though asking for FFA, it is clear the SNP does not want it. The Nationalists are simply being disruptive while sitting as a pack of 56 in Westminster. Their leader, Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile is swanning around the world posing for photographs with foreign officials.
Am I alone in wondering why they are not back in their constituencies fighting for the well-being of the people they represent?
There are many indicators to suggest Scotland is beginning to show deterioration in education, health and life, social care and transport. Perhaps they feel this is the responsibility of their colleagues in Holyrood. But if I were in an SNP constituency I would be wanting to see what my MP could do for me, including pushing Holyrood to tackle obvious problems.
Cosying up on a bench in Westminster is not going to benefit anyone, particularly with requests that they neither want nor have a chance of getting.
“THE Scottish Government has failed to…” Scarcely a day goes by without this familiar refrain in one of your reports. But to be fair to the SNP, it is rare to have three such reports in one day (10 June).
We are told that Scotland is slipping behind the rest of the UK in the creation of apprenticeships. The SNP has created 25,000 in the last year – “about half the rate in England per head of population”.
And on climate change the SNP has missed its emissions target for the fourth year in a row. Maybe they will “solve” this problem by just lowering the targets.
They tried that when they failed to meet their target of treating 98 per cent of patients in A&E within four hours. They lowered it to an “interim goal” of 95 per cent –but even that was not enough. The performance at South Glasgow University Hospital was 83.2 per cent – “the lowest across Scotland”.
I am not in favour of a party in opposition setting itself against whatever measures – good or bad – are proposed by the government in power. On the other hand, when the government is failing its people, then it must be held to account – especially so when that government enjoys an undeserved reputation for “competence”.
This is not being “negative” or “defining oneself by opposition” as Scottish Labour leadership candidate Ken Macintosh recently claimed.
Not only is it good tactics but in fact part of the duty of the opposition parties to the Scottish people to expose the reality behind the rhetoric.
Braid Hills Avenue
THOSE who attempt to indict the SNP over its case for FFA do nothing to help their argument when they overlook the evolution of our funding over several decades (Letters, 10 June).
The 20 per cent extra per capita funding we have over England resulted mainly from successive post-war Westminster governments, Labour and Conservative, pouring money into Scotland to thwart the nationalist threat. That was before the introduction of the Barnett formula in 1978-79.
In effect, Barnett both returns to us the tax proceeds we ship off to the UK exchequer and claws back gradually the post-war funding. If England receives £100, our equivalent (block grant) is £120. If England receives year-on-year enhancement of 5 per cent, they receive £5, and we also receive £5, but that represents only 4 per cent on our £120 – that 1 per cent shortfall on our £25 billion block grant loses £250m per year.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) supposed assessment of £7.6bn is often quoted as our deficit with fiscal autonomy. But fiscal autonomy cannot come in immediately; it is a longer-term proposition – all sides seem to accept that. It probably has three or four years to go. So why is anyone saying the SNP wants FFA immediately?
My speculation is that the SNP is content to play it long because there is a further tranche of some £5bn of cuts coming our way from Westminster. While the reduction does have to be made, it is at the behest of the Unionist government, so the SNP can pass on the blame for that elsewhere – isn’t that what its critics say the SNP does? Furthermore, there are four years of Barnett squeeze in the pipeline – another £1bn reduction, so the IFS figure comes down to £1.6bn.
It also so happens that the £5bn cut off the £25bn block grant would eliminate our 20 per cent lead over England, thus making us more viable for fiscal autonomy.
Douglas R Mayer