Calls for Welsh First Minister to clarify Barnett formula comments

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  By Angela Haggerty

The SNP has called on Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones to explain controversial comments he made supporting the abolition of the Barnett formula and a £4bn cut to the Scottish budget ahead of a speech at the University of Edinburgh on Wednesday.

A report for the Cardiff administration in 2010 claimed that the Barnett formula – which calculates the budget allocated from Westminster to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – gave £4bn too much to Scotland.  A year ago, Mr Jones again called for it to be scrapped.

Ahead of his address at the University of Edinburgh on the future of the UK, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani called on Mr Jones to explain his comments.

“Carywn Jones has never been shy about his desire to change the Barnett formula in a way that would disadvantage Scotland,” she said.  “The Welsh First Minister has the perfect opportunity to use his visit to Scotland to spell out to people here just how much he wants Scotland’s budget cut by if there is a No vote next year.

“With a Welsh Commission suggesting that Scotland’s funding could be cut by a staggering £4bn in a single year, these are major cuts that are being proposed which would have a devastating impact on communities across Scotland.  Scotland already more than pays its own way in the UK, but the dismal future being offered by the No campaign would see people in Scotland disadvantaged even further.”

A recent Panelbase poll found that 48 per cent of respondents in Scotland said they would be more likely to vote in favour of independence at the referendum in 2014 if the Barnett formula was scrapped, compared to 38 per cent who felt they were more likely to vote no.

Despite generating 9.9 per cent of UK tax revenues, Scotland receives a lesser 9.3 per cent of UK public spending.  The SNP said that Mr Jones should “come clean” with Scotland about his belief that further spending should be taken away from Scotland to boost the Welsh economy.

The Welsh Fairness and Accountability report – written by Professor David Miles and Gerald Holtham for the Cardiff Assembly, which has been seeking greater powers over its financial affairs – claimed that the UK’s current funding regime was “defective” and described it as an “unfair, outdated and arbitrary system”.

The pair concluded: “An assessment consistent with those used to distribute health, local government and education spending around England could eventually result in Scotland getting as much as £4bn less than it currently does.”

Meanwhile, Ms Fabiani claimed that the only long-term solution to the continuous dilemma posed by the Barnett formula was for Scotland to have full control over finance and economy.

“With all of the UK parties lining up to cut Scotland’s budget if there’s a No vote, only the full powers of an independent Scotland will ensure that all of Scotland’s resources are used to benefit people living here,” she said.  “The fairest solution for everyone is for Scotland to gain full control over our own tax and spending decisions and only a Yes vote next year will secure that for people in Scotland.”