Ukip vow to cut £8 billion of Scotland’s funding

THE UK Independence Party has laid out plans to slash £8 billion from Scottish funding to help balance the books in government.

Ukip's conference in Margate heard of the party's plans. Picture: AP

The anti-European Union party was last night being accused of becoming the “English party” after it targeted Scotland for budget cuts as a possible price of coalition after the election in a direct appeal to “Eurosceptic England”.

All the main UK parties have, in the aftermath of the independence referendum, signed up for keeping the Barnett Formula – which decides how money is divvied up across the nations and regions of the UK.

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This is despite pressure from some English Tory MPs for the funding model invented in the 1970s to be dropped because it is believed to be too generous for Scotland. However, at the Ukip conference in Margate yesterday, the party, which claims to represent the whole of the United Kingdom and has an MEP north of the Border, singled out Scotland for budget cuts.

With the party still polling at about 15 per cent, Mr Farage could still be a kingmaker after the election in May.

In an attack on Scotland at the conference, Ukip deputy leader Paul Nuttall identified funding and a lack of English votes for English laws at Westminster as examples of England being “punished” by Scots MPs.

He warned that things will “get worse” if the SNP increases its number of MPs significantly as expected.

He said: “England has effectively been left with nothing more than token gestures and broken promises. We in Ukip intend to right that wrong. We believe in cleaner and fairer English votes on English issues.”

He claimed that the Smith Commission proposals to devolve more power to Scotland, endorsed by the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and the SNP, made Scottish MPs “too powerful”.

He went on: “This is unfair, it is wrong and it punishes the English.

“This is fundamentally wrong and it flies in the face of our democratic principles.”

With Ukip largely targeting south-east of England seats in Essex and Kent, he described Tory plans for English votes for English laws as “weak” and a “recipe for disaster” while he said Labour was “putting party interest” before England by not supporting reform.

He also warned of Scottish MPs thwarting attempts to leave the EU by “Eurosceptic England”.

Meanwhile Ukip deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans told the conference that scrapping the Barnett Formula would save £8bn.

Patrick O’Flynn, a former journalist turned Ukip MEP and part of the party leadership, said: “We have already identified huge savings for the public purse: reducing the foreign aid budget by £9bn, getting out of the EU to rid ourselves of those enormous net contributions, scrapping the HS2 vanity project and moving to equalise per capita public spending in Scotland with that in England.”

The comments were condemned by other parties.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “Ukip’s plans to slash Scotland’s budget are nothing new – and may explain their current support in Scotland which falls into the statistical margin of error of zero per cent. Their greatest threat is that the other Westminster parties pander to their Eurosceptic agenda, and end up dragging Scotland out of Europe against its will.

“A strong group of SNP MPs in May is the only way Scotland will get the strong voice it needs at Westminster.”

Meanwhile Labour shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran described Ukip as a threat to Scotland. She said: “Ukip offers nothing for Scottish voters. Ukip’s plan to scrap the Barnett Formula threatens Scotland’s NHS and the future of our public services. They are a fringe party, with nothing to offer Scots.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the comments showed the Ukip has “given up on Scotland”.

He went on: “I hope Scottish voters also give up on Ukip.

“The Barnett Formula is good for Scotland, good for the United Kingdom.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “These irresponsible plans would see billions cut from the money that pays for our schools and hospitals.

“It is a plan aimed solely at trying to revive a flagging campaign in England which is already running out of steam.”

Ukip is not the only party to have pushed for scrapping the Barnett Formula.

The proposal was made by the Lib Dems in the 2010 election but has since been dropped.

The SNP have also called for the Barnett Formula to go in exchange for oil and gas revenues from the North Sea.

The Scotsman attempted to contact Scottish Ukip MEP David Coburn but he was unavailable for comment.