Alex Massie

Brown Opens Barnett’s Box?

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Grrrr. According to the Telegraph Gordon Brown has announced a review of the Barnett Formula. Fair enough. It was, after all, designed as a temporary measure, updating the 19th century Goschen Formula that  allocated spending across the UK.

But it would be nice if people writing about it knew what they were talking about. Here's Iain Dale for instance:

In some ways, this formula is a bit like the Schleswig Holstein question in the days of Lord Palmerston. Only three people understand it, and two of them are dead. The one thing I remember about it is that I discovered that when Crossrail got the go-ahead, it meant that Scotland would also benefit to the tune of 10 per cent of Crossrail's cost. What I could never get confirmed is whether if a similar project is undertaken in Scotland, the reverse is true. I think we all know the answer.

But of course the Barnett Formula was not designed to hand out extra cash to Scotland. It was, in fact, designed to reduce the spending gap between Scotland and England, bringing per capita Scottish spending (Identifiable Division) into line with English spending. That's why you have such exotic phenomena as "the Barnett Squeeze" as Scottish budgets become tighter and tighter.

In any case, it's odd that Unionists should keep harping on about this. Unless, that is, they really are in league with Alex Salmond. If the price of the Union are some illogical constitutional arrangements and questionable funding formulae, then isn't that actually a pretty small price?

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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