Wrong numbers

The problem Brian Wilson has (Scottish Perspective, 10 January) is that he is furious that his 
Labour Party, through its incompetence and failure, handed power over to the SNP in 2007 and 2011. Or does Mr Wilson have a different perspective on their demise?

Unfortunately, in choosing to target some of the numbers, and exaggerating a potential alternative scenario surrounding the “underspend” figure of £444m, and misrepresenting the Barnett Formula, he is guilty of confusing his “truth” with the facts. It is more likely that delay in contracts, or incidence of payments, had occurred, so end-year flexibility took these transactions into the following year.

Mr Wilson misinterprets the operation of the Barnett Formula. The “excess” of funding that he attributes to Barnett was in place, well before devolution, as a consequence of successive unionist parties in power at Westminster flooding Scotland with extra money to thwart the perceived threat from the SNP.

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In formulaic terms, it works like this: if England spends £100, then we are spending £120. If England receives 5 per cent enhancement it would receive £5. But we would also receive £5, which is worth only £4 on our £120, a squeeze of 1 per cent, and on a block grant of £25bn we lose £250m each year.

Had the Conservative government of 1979-97 applied Barnett over its 18 years, our lead would have been down to single figures, but it remained at about 20 per cent, which misled Labour in particular – they thought Barnett had sustained the higher expenditure, and that misrepresentation led the drive towards devolution.

It must have come as a shock to them when Barnett hit the fan only with the introduction of devolution.

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent

Edinburgh

Brian Wilson (Scottish Perspective, 10 January) and Colin Hamilton (Letters, same date) berate the Scottish Government for not spending more of its funds in the last financial year.

Mr Wilson recognises that, under present arrangements, a surplus is inevitable but thinks it was too large. I would have thought that a reserve of 1.3 per cent might be classed as prudent housekeeping, and it chimes with Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy’s recent call for a contingency fund.

Furthermore, it seems, from what is being said by the two main UK parties, that we should anticipate further “austerity” measures.

Mr Wilson suggests that the money might have been spent on, say, more teachers but what is the point of engaging more staff if it seems unlikely there will be, in the near future, the funds to pay them?

S Beck

Craigleith Drive

Edinburgh