Monday, 4 July 2011

Time To Disprove England Bankrolls Scotland

On Radio 5 yesterday morning Stephen Nolan dedicated his 90 minute programme to the subject: 'We're All In This Together - The Future of the Union'. Guests included Toby Young, the Telegraph blogger and George Kerevan, a columnist for the Scotsman, plus short visits from Tom Harris MP and Huzma Yousaf MSP among others.

Although the debate was good natured throughout and the consensus was that Scotland could survive as an independent nation, one fact stood out very distinctly, even though George Kerevan and the historian Mark - I didn't catch his surname - tried hard to 'balance the books' by way of sensible explanation.

The fact is many people still believe England (not Wales or N Ireland), subsidises Scotland. It's not only the English who believe this to be true - some Scots do too. There have been so many reports offering differing figures most people no longer know what to believe and this needs to be clarified - the sooner the better.

I see little point in this vital aspect being discussed only between supporters of independence as happens only too often. Somehow the people in Scotland - and England for that matter - must be told the true facts in a style which can be understood by all.  Few want to read the annual GERS reports. Even less want to listen to unionists and independence supporters arguing about lists of numbers.

This 'misunderstanding' has to be confronted now before it becomes so firmly embedded in folks' minds that eradication is nigh impossible.

To reach everyone would require high profile radio/television access but even better would be a leaflet distributed to each household in Scotland. It could include a few questions such as 'what style of military presence would you prefer' and 'how can our care services improve. Independence politicians must start to listen to the people, all the people and opening up lines of communication is the first step.

People will only vote for independence if they feel they've been included in the process towards the goal. Three years isn't a long time to ensure inclusion and it could commence now if the SNP took the step to ensure the unionist incantation that England is Scotland's benefactor was, for once and for all, proved wrong and as quickly as possible.


William said...

It is false and it's not an argument that I use.

I do think there's a difference between this, though, and asking how Scotland would have coped in the financial crisis.

Generally, whenever people bang on about England subsidising Scotland, I point out that London is the biggest recipient of public funds anywhere in the UK. Removing Whitehall and all the various government departments to Liverpool, for example, would have a serious economic impact on London.

JRB said...

My impression, and it is just that, is that the Westmonster parliament has a disproportionate sense of unjustified arrogance based on a gross misinterpretation and misrepresentation (note: not misunderstanding) of the facts.

This lifelong diet of misinformation has, in some ways, succeeded in sowing the merest hint of doubt in my mind.

If I have that impression, then the fault must lie squarely with Westmonster and the flood of misinformation and negative propaganda that emanates from it.

But how do we reverse my impressions. The truth, from all sides, and not merely political spin would go some way.

If the SNP are to confront this ‘misunderstanding’ that exists in many peoples minds, then they must be totally open, totally honest with unassailable facts.

You are right.
This countries unhealthy fixation with ‘London’, ‘Westminster’ and ‘The City’ will ever increase the North/South divide. If we do not dissipate and devolve the centres of power and administration away from the south-east, the country as it is at present will become so divided as to be beyond repair.

subrosa said...

It's an argument many use throughout the UK William and it's enough to create continuing doubt.

The problem is that those in the SE don't want to move. Look at the BBC (which is nearly a government department) and their problems connected with moving just one of their programmes to Salford.

subrosa said...

You're right of course John, my choice of words was far too forgiving.

The fault may lie there but the lies need to be corrected from here and we must start now. As I said four years isn't a long time to eradicate this as it's been reiterated for many years by the south and some unionist parties here in Scotland - although they appear to have stopped the nonsense now.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

SR -your question here relates directly to you post -Letter to Mr Salmond - and it boils down to trust.

Unfortunately Westminster style democratic politics doesn't do true facts; which is why their happy to soldier on with 45% of the voting populace disengaged from the process.

The question at the moment is whether the SNP are happy to participate within the same principles and process in order to maintain the stasis of hierarchy governors and governed under an abstract notion of a sovereign parliament?

This to my mind is the crunch that Salmond has to explain and layout in a straightforward way. It is the one issue Westminster cannot counter by the swamp of dubious fact and the toxic broth of disingenuous accounts and statistics.

William poses a very fair question above - "How would Scotland have coped with the banking idiocy?"

However the question that begs is; while Scotland within the parameters of the UK London centric model would have been in trouble, that assumes that an independent Scotland free from Westminster control would have followed the same matrix.

The relevance here is that most of the countries who got seriously involved in the money from nothing game were (are) countries who relied on markets and need mutated to greed because of relatively low reserves of natural resources allied to a quixotic arrogance to put service before manufacturing industry.

Would Scotland have followed the same path? Probably in part, but I doubt if it would have put so many eggs into the basket.

English Pensioner said...

Scotland gets a higher amount per capita than England to spend on Scotland (The Barnet formula if I remember correctly). Unless it can be shown that the population of Scotland pay proportionately more taxation, per capita, than than the residents of England, where does the money come from?
One thing I always notice when I visit Scotland are the motorways. Driving north from Carlisle there is a motorway of a standard which would never be justified down south as the traffic volumes would have been considered insufficient to justify its construction. Many local "A" roads in this area carry far more, yet there is no likelihood of any improvements. To me this is just one of the visible signs of money being spent in Scotland which would never be spent here.
So where does the money come from?

petem130 said...

For me there is just one pertinent question which deals with funding for Scotland.

"If Scotland costs England so much more money than it should then why does England continue with the UK with Scotland in it?"

What could they say to that and how could they avoid saying things which would sound patronising and create a greater divide?

These are supposed to be shrewd people and they are not going to throw good money after bad (at least for appearances sake).

But as you say we need the SNP to act quickly and get the real message out there not just on this but on all the other areas of future governance which will define Scotland.

Time is short.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

English Pensioner -turn your argument on its head and you may come nearer to the truth - as it is, it's a wonderful dividend of demographics - 55 million as opposed to 5.5 million in as near as damn it the same land mass.

But just to be clear the formula under Barnett sends back only part of what's taken and that's largely hidden by obfuscation.

And on the matter of Motorways; those that are built in Scotland are paid for by by Scotland, while it has to take a cost share on M25s, Channel Tunnels (with no connections) and London vanity regeneration projects such as the Olympic Games.

So come up to Scotland and enjoy some of the motorways; goodness knows some like the M74 we waited long enough for and on the East coast we are still waiting. Then, should you feel homesick, join the M8 at rush hour (most hours) and enjoy the switch back experience of crawling on A minus road.

So ask not where the money comes from; but who does it go to and what do they do with it -only then will you have the basis for an argument.

cynicalHighlander said...

Firstly don't take anything on the BBC as at all factual as they thrive on misinformation. Stephen Nolan used to host a good discussion but he now seems to thrive on a good rammy rather than inform the listening public.

Independent Scotland could have afforded bank bail out

The UK is broken up into 9 English regions plus N. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and The North Sea so for England to average out its government subsidy is flawed at the outset.

The problem for all of the UK is London as it takes all taxes as income to itself distorting every other regions real worth to the treasury. The list is endless.

Independently audited treasury accounts would be a step forward for democracy but that will never happen.

Dioclese said...

Scotland should go it's own way if that is the will of it's people.

I heard some rubbish on the BBC the other day while the Queen was opening the Holyrood parliament. They said it was an awkward subject because then she wouldn't be Queen of Scotland anymore.

I wonder if Canada, and Australia and New Zealand agree with that?...

As far as I am aware, there has been no talk of Scotland becoming a republic - unless someone out there knows better?

Allan said...


For a yes vote to be attainable, this is the key piece of conventional wisdom that the SNP need to destroy, that Scotland is bankrolled by England. This "fact" had been drip fed into the British media for some time - probably since The S*n's "Stop Your Sniffling Jock" headlines in the early 1980's - and has carried far and wide. It has even popped up in the sports book "Football Against The Enemy" in a chapter on Catalonia & Barcelona (It was written in 1992 post Barcalona's European Cup win and post the Olympics of that year).

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Dioclese - once the main battle's won subsidiary issues can be democratically decided.

cynicalHighlander said...

Remember who set up GERS!

Ian Lang
"The booklet I have had prepared and printed, setting out the details of the Government’s expenditure and revenue in Scotland, I judge that it is just what is needed at present in our campaign to maintain our initiative and undermine the other parties."

The BBC is going strong on its poll of the English over our Independence, didn't think that was what we are forced to pay a licence fee for.

Key bored warrior. said...

Rosie I blogged on this some time ago. The smoke and mirrors that is the Treasury has for hundreds of years hidden the revenues of Scotland.

Just listening to the R5 radio programme makes my blood boil.

Key bored warrior. said...

Sorry here is the post. said...

where do I start!! there are so many things wrong with this country (and by country I mean the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) most of the ills spawning from our political classes (English as well as Scots and the rest) abject surrender to the EU. and teh SNP proposes to be in thrall to teh EU also so how can Scotland be 'independent' when it surrenders to a foreign construct also!!

The Acts of Union 1707 and 1800 are the best things that happened to our collective nations...from them we created the British Empire spanning a quarter of the globe where the sun never set spreading the mother of parliaments, modern democracy, education, justice,engineering marvels, railways, rule of law and a myriad of other quintisentially British qualities...

I am a Scot, a Glaswegian born and bred, my grandparents were of highland stock, now I'm living in England running a business, and fiercely proud of my heritage and culture but not deluded, stupid or blinkered enough to think that being an independent nation subserviant to the EU (or even if we were not) that we could survive and thrive withut the union...

its the UNION of our FOUR NATIONS that bizarre dichotomous surreal truly UNIQUE accident of geography and history thats put the GREAT into GREAT Britain... and we have lost it part in our surrender to the EU because its what the EU wants by the maxim of 'divide and conquer' and so many deluded people fall for it hook line and sinker...

the only future for Britain is the reaffirmation of our UNION celebrating our differences but combining our strenghts........

wake up please wake up to the real enemy in our midst....

Anonymous said...

The Labour Party invented the myth that Scotland is too poor, too wee, and too stupid to be successful as an independent nation for the purpose of frightening the Scots away from independence. Labour wanted the Scots to believe they were financially incapable of existing without handouts from England and this they reasoned would save the Union for Labour. After all, they reasoned, Labour were the traditional political party of Scotland, the party that generations of Scots believed in and freely gave their votes to year on year for nothing in return.

Now the myth has spread over the border and people who should know better are happy to propagate it without checking the veracity of it. Instead of taking their information from the tabloids they should read the “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report”

I would suggest to the SNP that it would be entirely reasonable, and no different from that which any other very large organisation would do, for the elected Scots government to start issuing each household in Scotland with an annual summary profit and loss report for all the revenue and expenditure in Scotland by the Westminster and Holyrood governments as extracted from GERS.

I would hope that the SNP has this in their "to do" list in advance of the referendum.

John McClane said...

There was a programme on R4 tonight. One of the people on it said Scotland was getting £1,024 per head per annum from UK taxes more than the English or Welsh.

Somebody else said, it's true that the Scots get personal healthcare free, but the English get lots of NHS stuff free that the Scots don't get. But, when asked, he couldn't actually say what we get free and the Scots don't.

I wasn't actually listening that much because I'll get it as a podcast later. But... the Scots joined the Union because the money looked good. They can leave if the money looks good. But they better make sure the money is good, because once they've gone, they're gone.

subrosa said...

Couldn't agree with you more Crinkly about the SNP explaining the layout.

I've read in a few places that the banking crunch would have been coped well by Scotland because only 10% of the business was based in Scotland. Seems international rules say any deficits have to be made by the country in which the transactions take place. Wish I could find the links.

subrosa said...

EP, the Barnet formula was devised to keep the Scots happy once oil was discovered in its waters. We get a pittance really.

What do you think built the channel tunnel, M25 et al when little private funding could be found?

subrosa said...

Time is short petem.

subrosa said...

CH I'm far too long in the tooth to take anything the BBC pumps out as factual. The 'subsidy' didn't only crop up on that programme, I hear it at least once a day whenever Scotland is mentioned these days.

We need to deal with this quickly.

subrosa said...

There are republicans everywhere Dioclese and I shouldn't think any more pro rata here than anywhere else.

Mind you, once Lizzie goes who knows?

subrosa said...

My thoughts exactly Allan.

subrosa said...

Aye I've noticed that CH. The BBC seem exceptionally interested in the subject. No pressure from Westminster of course. :)

subrosa said...

KBW, I read that when you originally posted it.

I suggest to others it's a good read.

subrosa said...

Bingobax, there are few people these days who don't agree the Scots could run their own country. Even Tom Harris admitted it on the programme in question.

subrosa said...

M, how many people are going to sit down and read the GERS reports other than people very interested in politics?

I'm suggesting the SNP need to spell out the situation in easily understood figures with a clear explanation.

subrosa said...

Auch John, the reasons Scotland became part of the Union are too complex to explain here but part of it was to be able to trade with the Empire. The Empire is no more.

GHmltn said...

Indeed, I would like more information and informed debate on this one.

I don't actually think there is too much misinformation on this topic apart from people on both sides of the argument making their case and using selective evidence to support their arguments.

I think the issue is that, understandably, the starting point is the Barnett Formula and Scotland gets a higher amount per capita to spend than England does.

The rest gets more complex - factoring in government spending in London for example, large capital projects like the M25 and the Channel Tunnel, factoring in tax reliefs like pension (tax relief which disproportionately benefit areas where salaries for the same job are higher), factoring in mineral wealth - not least oil revenues.

The situation also changes over time.

I actually think there is no right answer but the gap is narrower than a mere viewing of the Barnett formula would suggest.

But there is also a regional consideration - don't compare with England but compare with more comparable regions - the SE, NE, NW, Midlands, SW, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and so on.

This equalises things further as some regions are wealthy and some are not.

For comparison purposes we can look at relative GDP as to see who are the net contributors in the UK.

It is complex, and we are all inter-linked, which can make some of this over simplistic too.

We won't ever get a definitive answer but I would like more factual information on the current situation and an understanding of the extent to which the economies are inter-linked.

Derek said...

I'm with Bingomax on this one. Divide and conquer - gets them every time.

Who would not think any country could handle its own affairs better than a part of a collective - but is that the issue? Just as individual households would not entertain neighbours handling their household accounts and dietry, so we all have different ways of doing things. But just as any tribe of critters will create a pecking order whilst no threat exists from without, we are currently threatened from outside and within - the traitors who entertain and promulgate the EU machine and all its many tentacled arms - we are asleep at the wheel - as are the passengers, lulled by lies and light entertainment. Such pecking orders should and are cast aside when an external threat looms in the world of wildlife - all gather and defend the group.

In contrast, an infiltration of the enemy will smooth the path for subtle invasion through propaganda and subterfuge - legislature and control. Dead in the water.

Petty bickering - tptb just love it.

Scotland may wish to be independent from England & Wales, to disperse the centres of politic. But what matter is it where such centres are placed? Legislation is not controlled by geographic location, no more than these typed words only reach the end of my street. Are we not all unwillingly ruled from Brussels?

It's a falsehood, and we are hoodwinked.

"We have seen the enemy, and it is us" said...

Subrosa I'm not saying Scotland cannot exist as an autonomous independent nation....indeed we can do so but the question is SHOULD WE???

we were and should be part of a UNION as we once were...its this unique, no where in the world is there an example of how such diverse cultures, languages, history have come together celebrating our differences but garnering our strenghts (painful and violent at times yes) to produce a united nation that gave the world Magna Carta, Right of Petition Bill of Rights and Habeus Corpus, ( the foundational documents of the constituitonal of Canada, USA, NZ, Australia and India) and the mother of modern democracy (sadly surrendered to the EU) the Industrial revolution the steam engine the railways (dont forget golf) and practically every other worthwhile invention and discovery in engineering and science..... does anyone really think that an independent Scotland (it wouldn't be independent if still in the EU) could thrive and generate enough revenue without a radical overhaul of its fiscal and legislative agenda....? the elephant and its excretia are in the room..the EU...if Scotland affirmed its determination to cede from the EU, introduce a flat rate tax (scrap NI) and make it lower than England and Wales considerably so and nurture business and enterprise I think it might work as you'd see a huge relocation of businesses from England NI and Wales to Scotland...and what about border control?? do we issue Scottish passports, do we have checkpoints at the border and ports and airports...? all mute points if still in the EU as the EU does not recognise border the answer is not independence unless it means ceding from the EU....

Brian said...

Of course England doesn't bankroll Scotland - there's nothing left after DfID has bought almost everyone else in the world a drink.

subrosa said...

Excellent comment GH. Part of the problem appears to be that both 'sides' never quote the sources of their figures. If they did then it would certainly be easier for folk to investigate themselves. But would they?

subrosa said...

Yes Derek, I would say we are ruled by Brussels at present, but action could be taken to alter that relationship. The current Scottish government is rather keen on Brussels though.

subrosa said...

I say yes bingobax.

There have been plenty examples - Scandanavia being one of them.

Let's not forget, the Union is only just over 300 years old. Not a long time in the great scheme of things.

Your mute points can be easily resolved once the issue of the EU is. For me our relationship with the EU is the catalyst to it all.

subrosa said...

Brian, tut tut. There is something left. Debt.

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