English MPs left fuming as Scots spending divide grows

By politics.co.uk staff

News that the gap between public spending per head in Scotland and Wales rose by 15% last year has renewed calls for a shakeup in the system used to divide public money.

Under the Barnett formula Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have always benefited from public sector spending allocations, at the cost of the English.

Now Treasury figures have shown that the gap is expected to widen further over the next four years, after increasing by over 15% last year.

The average £10,212 spent per person in Scotland last year was £1,624 more than the
average in England.

Many English MPs, especially Conservative backbenchers, are frustrated by the system and are demanding reform.

"It is simply wrong that English taxpayers are being asked to help subsidise for people living in Scotland a range of services not available in England, including free prescriptions, free hospital parking, free accommodation in care homes and free university tuition fees," Gordon Henderson said.

"Something has to be done before the justifiable resentment felt by many people about the unfair subsidy English taxpayers are expected to contribute towards superior services north of the border, manifests itself in an anti-Scots backlash."

Fellow Tory MP David Mowat told the Telegraph newspaper: "It is right that the Scottish government can set its own priorities and if it wants to prioritise free prescriptions, for example, that is fine. But it is not right that they end up with an extra £1,600 per person to pay for it.

"This is quite wrong and will rightly cause indignation in England. Many MPs are having to defend deeply unpopular cuts. We do so on the basis that there is no alternative and that the deficit must be brought down.

"This argument looks a bit limp when the coalition is able to fritter away billions of pounds to appease vested interests north of the border. We should have a funding formula that is based on need."

Further reductions in the amount of money handed to Scotland caused by reform of the Barnett formula could come at a sensitive time for the coalition, however.

Scottish nationalists controlling the Scottish executive are planning on holding an independence referendum before 2016, which prime minister David Cameron has pledged to oppose.