Posted by: secretperson | December 5, 2007

Barnett looks Doomed, will the Union Follow?

Wendy Alexander is probably about to leave office after her funding problems, but that hasn’t stopped her speaking about the future. She recently spoke out against the Barnett Formula, supporting a move towards more direct Scottish control of finances. This follows Manchester MP Graham Stringer raising the issue in parliament, and an FT article on alternatives.

The momentum seems to be gathering. I doubt Alexander would have spoken without central Labour party backing. Any change must be seen to come from a Scottish politician, and it is no doubt an attempt to offer an alternative to the SNP’s devolution plans. But the English, arguably more of a threat to the Union, are also up in arms about Barnett, and stopping headlines about us paying for Scottish health and education perks will also be on the Government’s agenda.

I think the SNP would welcome more financial independence (although they of course want full independence). But they will not accept any funding cuts that undermine their spending programme. And here we come to the problem….

Everyone wants changes to Barnett, the SNP as a step towards independence, Labour to fend off independence (did they learn nothing from devolution?) and England to address percieved inequality. But any changes will upset someone.

If money to Scotland is cut, to please England, the SNP won’t be happy. Neither will the people of Scotland who would face raised taxes or reduced services. It would look like Labour punishing Scotland for voting in the SNP, and would only increase the support for them, and for independence.

Despite thinking they can head of independence with concessions, Labour and the other Unionist parties would be upset when the SNP showed Scotland can handle a budget. It will not reduce calls for independence, but would be a step towards it. And control freak Brown wouldn’t like having that much power out of his hands.

And if the settlement follows this quote from Scottish Secretary Des Browne

“The government has always been prepared to adjust the settlement in the interests of the people of Scotland.”

and adjusts in the interest of the people of Scotland, who it already favours, the English will be further alienated and demands for a break up of the Union would increase. And let us not forget that every further devolved power increases the unfairness of the West Lothian Question.

But don’t mistake a reform of Barnett upsetting someone as a reason to keep it. The reason people will be upset is that we have different interests, Barnett is not the answer, independence is. British Government can never act in the interests of the people when their interests don’t all coincide. Doing what is right for the people is important, ‘preserving the union’ at all costs is not.



  1. […] The Secret Person created an interesting post today on Barnett looks Doomed, will the Union Follow? […]

  2. […] it will be reviewed, which means nothing will be done. And they have hinted at it before, as I blogged previously in early December. It is almost impossible to change things without upsetting either the Scots or […]

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