Alex Massie

Public Spending Cuts: The Theory vs The Reality

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Everyone agrees that cuts in public spending are necessary. Everyone also agrees that we could do with a better and more candid class of politician. And everyone should agree that we could do with better newspapers too. It's budget week here in Scotland and that means there's the chance to preview some of arguments that are going to be had at Westminster next year.

So how does the Scottish Daily Mail report the SNP's budget? With the splash: CUTS AT HOME, CASH FOR AFRICA. How charming. Apparently As SNP budget paves way for savage cuts in housing, transport and education, Salmond finds extra millions for pet foreign aid projects.

You have to read as far as the 21st paragraph to discover that the foreign aid budget will increase from £6m to a whopping £9m next year. Now this may not be the most pressing mater for the Scottish government, but nor can any sensible person consider it anything more than a single peanut in a £35bn budget.

But it's the Mail's editorial that is more interesting still. The paper says, with some reason, that "the longer serious and necessary cuts are deferred, a worsening financial crisis looms around the corner" and that "nobody relishes spending cuts bt the earlier they come, the less severe they will be." This may all be the case. Which makes it interesting that the only significant trimming the paper's editorial mentions is cutting "£250m from Scotland's housing budget in a body blow to our beleaguered construction industry."

In other words, the Mail is in favour of spending cuts except for those cuts that are actually announced. Not that the Mail is unique in this regard. Most papers will accept the need for spending restraint; most will howl when cuts are actually made.

Similarly, the public may like the idea of real-terms spending reductions but, regardless of what they tell the pollsters, I very much doubt that they'll be so fond of the actual cuts themselves. So, while it would indeed be grand to have a better class of politician, we could do with better journalists and, for that matter, better voters too.

Good luck, Dave.

[No links to the Mail because I can't find the relevant stories online. If someone can, let me know...]

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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