There are a few specific threats coming that a ‘No’ vote will render unavoidable. One is the further cuts that the coalition government have planned. Of the 6 billion pounds cut to Scotland’s welfare budget, 70% have yet to be applied by their 2016 deadline. The Child Poverty Action Group estimate that a billion of those cuts still to come will directly affect children, pushing a further 100,000 of them into poverty in Scotland by 2020.
Another is the end of the Barnett Formula. This is frequently presented as Scotland getting a higher per capita spend, even although Scotland (along with London and the SE of England) is one of the three parts of the UK that contribute above the average – which means that Scotland gets less back than it puts in by £500 per capita. This means that the Barnett Formula, which calculates the Scottish Government’s block grant on the basis of expenditure elsewhere in the UK, is politically popular, and supported by all facets of Westminster. It has been indicated that a review of Barnett will not be implemented before the next general election, and that it will involve a reduction of the funding received by Scotland to be replaced by a ‘needs-based formula’. The degree of cuts envisaged range from a conservative £4 billion, but on a per capita basis the ‘£1,200 extra’ often cited equates to a £6.4 billion cut.
A third is the reduction of the numbers of Scottish MPs, which has often been tied in to any further devolved powers, along with the end of the Barnett Formula. From 1885 until 2005 (when a readjustment of Scottish MPs was made in the wake of the establishment of the devolved parliament) the representation of Scottish MPs was over 10%, reaching a high of 12% during the inter-war years. The 2013 review will reduce the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 52 for the next general election: this 8.67% representation amongst the 600 in Westminster is almost down as low as the 8.06% level when the Union of the Parliaments first took place. This means an increasing marginalization of a Scottish voice, at the same time as fiscal strength of the Scottish Government is damaged through ongoing welfare cuts, the ending of the Barnett Formula and paying for the setting up of a Scottish HMRC.
A conservative estimate will put the ongoing loss at more than £10 billion to Scotland, from these advertised changes, as a direct consequence of a ‘No’ vote – a cut that we do not need to take at all. This is what the choice of dependence means over independence – to be weaker collectively than we would be standing on our own two feet.
So are we going to be turkeys voting for Xmas?
Because there is an alternative.
On Monday February 3rd 2014, the Financial Times (not exactly a supporter of Scottish independence) produced an item on the financial situation of an independent Scotland, using UK government figures, and concluded that every individual would be almost £1,400 a year better off from Day One. They demonstrated that the Scottish Government would immediately have some £7 billion a year on top of the existing Scottish budget of £64 billion – and that was conservatively assuming that the government of the newly reindependent state would retain the UK government’s existing spending priorities.
“An independent Scotland could expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK” (Financial Times, February 3rd 2014)
“On 18th September, 2014, between the hours of 7am and 10pm, absolute sovereign power will lie in the hands of the Scottish people. They have to decide whether to keep it, or give it away to where their minority status makes them permanently powerless and vulnerable. So where do we stand at one minute past ten, at 10.01?” (Jim Sillars, March 2014)