Sunday, May 28, 2006

What is the Guardian's policy on the Union?

I didn't know it was the Guardian's policy to foster the break up of the UK. However, after yesterday I have to say I am compelled to conclude that it is. In the print edition, in a perhaps little read corner, there appears "what we've learned", which I think is a sort of compilation of bits of rubbish read by the editors during the week. I suspect the bits of rubbish include Johnny Grimond's rant against Scotland in the Economist, as we can read here that:

"The English subsidise the Scots by roughly £1,000 per Scot per year."

Now, even if public spending per head is higher in Scotland than it is in England, in fact it has been rising more slowly in Scotland (a part of the UK which is indubitably poorer than average) than in England (a part of the UK which is indubitably richer than average) since devolution. All of these figures, of course, conceal the fact that there is massive diversity in wealth, etc. within England and Scotland, which mandate fiscal transfers within those parts of the UK, as well as across the UK as a whole. However, public spending allocations in Scotland are the result of political choices made in Holyrood and Westminster, not the result of some sort of structural bias against England or the English in public spending allocations across the UK.

It seems to me unarguable that the current state of political arrangements across the UK cannot be the final settlement. Devolution has produced some interesting outcomes, especially for Wales and Scotland, and potentially for Northern Ireland, but it has also thrown up the as yet unanswered "English question", which politicians in Westminster, of all parties, routinely shy away from.

What is equally clear is that an unwillingness amongst politicians to grapple with difficult issues can give rise to negative reactions, and the unleashing of forces which are inimical to the long term survival of the United Kingdom. It seems to me to be irresponsible journalism to describe the issue of public spending outcomes in the UK in terms of "the English subsidising the Scots". The Guardian, the Manchester Guardian as was, would doubtless shy away from a headline or trailer that read "the southerners are subsidising the northerners", and would want to see a complex argument developed instead of idiotic simplicities which recognised the differing levels of deprivation and the differing needs of the north and the south of England. Why then should they not apply the same degree of care and caution when describing the relationships between public spending in England and public spending in Scotland?

5 Comments:

Anonymous brync said...

Oil revenues don'r seem to come into these equations. If they did (and it wasn't just assumed that they belonged to London) then perhaps it could be deduced that Scotland is subsidising England.

Monday, May 29, 2006  
Blogger skipper said...

Suggest you check out the Economist's well supported special report on Scotland last week; it states more baldly than the Guardian, rather similar things.

Monday, May 29, 2006  
Blogger BondWoman said...

Yes, that's what I am referring to in referring to Johnny Grimond's rant. I'm fully aware of it; can't speak for brync. Anyway, "well supported" by whom?

Monday, May 29, 2006  
Blogger Kirk Elder said...

Dear Ms Bondwoman,
As reluctant as I am to give the Scottish parliament credit for anything, I do think it ironic that the Economist should criticise Scotland, when most of the problems dominating the national (UK) debate - house-prices, immigration, pressure on the health service, transport difficulties, pollution, poor quality of life, drought, poor state schools, eel pie closures - are side effects of London's domination of national affairs. The answer is devolution, but as true devolution - to parish pump level - requires politicians to give away their power, none can face it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Martyn said...

As ever I find myself in agreement with the sage-like Mr Elder. Real devolution to the grassroots level is what's required. It'll produce even more inconsistencies of course but that's an ordinary everyday part of a diverse, devolved political culture. If you were to examine funding to the North East of England or Cornwall for example you'd find similar figures to those found in Scotland and Wales. Poorer parts of the UK receive more public funds.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006  

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