Alex Massie

Are the SNP even more deluded than Labour? Why, yes, they are!

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Scottish public spending has essentially doubled (albeit in absolute terms) since Labour came to power. (To what end, you ask? To very little end, I reply.) Now the British government has run out of money and it is obvious that there are going to have to be spending cuts if the public finances are ever going to be restored to some semblance of stability. This is obvious, I should say, to everyone but the SNP for whom any suggestion that it might be possible to cut even a tiny sliver of cash from the Scottish Government's £35bn kitty is the vilest sort of anti-Scottish treachery.

Then again, the Nationalists aren't responsible for raising revenue, so it's no great surprise they howl whenever any budget is threatened. And therein lies the great problem with the devolution "settlement"; power absent the requirement to raise revenue is all but bound to become power that is bloated, feckless and irresponsible. That this should come to pass should surprise no-one.

This also applies, one should add, to the Tories' "localism" agenda. If local councils remain dependent upon Whitehall for 85% of their income then there can't be a real - let alone a successful - localist revolution.

UPDATE: Richard Thomson, SNP candidate for Gordon, takes issue with me, arguing that a cut in the block grant doesn't take account of "efficiency savings" the Nats are pursuing anyway:

In fact, the Scottish Government is looking for savings of 1.5% each year within its budget, and using the savings to help fund initiatives like the council tax freeze and the Small Business Bonus scheme. Rather, what's coming down the line is an actual cut to the Scottish budget, which will mean having to find even more efficiencies over and above those already being found if current spending lines are to be continued.

It's a legitimate argument to say that more efficiencies could be found, but to start from the premise that none are being found currently and will only occur as a result of a budget cut, is misleading to say the least. I don't suppose it will stop Jim Murphy trying to argue it, though.

No, I don't suppose it will. Of course, I'd like to see public spending in Scotland cut anyway but at the very least those responsible for spending ought also to be responsible for raising the cash too. On that, mind you, Richard and I might agree...

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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