Alex Massie

Another PBR, Please

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That would be a Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course, though another, better, Pre-Budget Report would be welcome too. As Fraser says, the public finances are ruined and will not be rebuilt for many years. Bill Jamieson's piece in the Scotsman framed the matter rather well and explained why the level of debt matters more than, I suspect, many people think it does:

But why should debt figures matter so much? This is why:

Next year, we will be paying £44.4bn in debt interest alone – never mind debt falling due for repayment.

That debt interest in 2010-11 will absorb the entire proceeds from capital gains tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty, tobacco duties, wine and spirits duties, beer and cider duties, betting and gaming duties, air passenger duty, the climate change levy, the aggregates levy and Customs and Excise levies – and still leave £1bn to find.

And this debt interest bill will rise sharply in future years, forcing further cuts in departmental spending limits as room has to be made for this cost. Emphasis added. All too true, one fears. Still, this is how the matter should be framed since, quite reasonably, people find it hard to comprehend figures once they run into the hundreds of bllions or even trillions of pounds.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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