Way back in the olden days, Scottish Labour won the 1999 elections to the Scottish parliament, at least in part, on the back of the slogan Divorce is an Expensive Business. (The SNP’s promise to raise income tax – the naffly named ‘Penny for Scotland’ – helped too. The Nationalists have never since risked making an overt case for higher taxes.)
Anyway, these costs run both ways. That’s made clear by new polling from England in which the extent of the oft-threatened, never-yet-delivered, English backlash to devolution is revealed.
It makes depressing reading for Unionists. True, only 19% of those surveyed think the UK would be better off without the troublesome, whining, Jocks. Or, at any rate, not sufficiently better off to make their departure an attractive proposition. 59% would like Scotland to vote No.
But that’s not the whole story. In the event of a No vote, a majority of English voters would like to prevent Scots MPs at Westminster voting on bills that only apply to England. Moreover, a majority of English voters think the Barnett Formula should be reassessed – that is, scrapped – and that Scotland should cease to enjoy greater per capita public spending than England. (Tim Montgomerie agrees, it might be noted, writing a piece for the Times today that has some Unionists wishing their English friends would just shut-up. At least until September 19th.)
More striking still, is what happens when you ask English people what should happen if Scotland votes Yes. Only 23% think it’s ‘Scotland’s pound too’ and agree that a formal currency union is the best idea for both states. Perhaps more surprisingly, only 26% said the continuity UK should endorse or support Scottish applications for EU and NATO membership.
How seriously should we take these findings? Well, the Barnett formula should be readdressed.