By Martin Kelly
A leading academic has said that there will be big pressure to cut Scotland’s budget in the event of a No vote.
Speaking in front of Holyrood’s Finance Committee, Aberdeen University Professor David Heald – a House of Commons Treasury Adviser for 20 years – said in the event of a No vote a review of Barnett would be very likely post-referendum as a result of “big pressure”.
He added: “When people talk about the review of Barnett, they usually mean cutting Scotland’s spending, because they’ve already decided … that Scotland gets too much.”
And when asked if voters should trust Westminster promises on Barnett ahead of the referendum, Professor Heald said: “I would say no.”
The Barnett formula is the mechanism used by the UK Government to calculate how much Scotland’s annual block grant should be. It is based on a proportion of public sending in England.
All three Unionist parties have indicated they would review the Barnett formula after the next UK general election.
In November last year Labour’s Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones called for the Barnett formula to be scrapped. Others to criticise the funding mechanism include London Mayor Boris Johnson and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.
Some estimates have put the possible cuts to the Scottish budget as high as £4bn.
SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn, who sits on the Finance Committee, said:
“Professor Heald makes it clear that there would be a clamour for cuts to Scotland’s budget from Westminster in the event of a No vote. And Scotland as part of the UK would be powerless to stop this – as Professor Heald states, the Treasury can effectively rewrite the rules on Barnett whenever they like.
“The Westminster parties are united in their determination to slash another £4bn from Scotland’s budget. The Lib Dems plans for further powers have cutting Barnett at their heart while senior Westminster figures including shadow Chancellor Ed Balls have made it clear they support a review.
“This would have devastating consequences on communities all over Scotland – we have already faced years of unprecedented cuts at the hands of Tories Scotland didn’t elect.
“Scotland punches above its weight in financial terms, more prosperous per head than France, Japan and the UK. A Yes vote means budget cuts can never be passed down from Westminster again. Only the full powers of independence can protect Scotland’s budget.”
The threat of a No vote was the subject of a recent animation starring cartoon character Duggy Dug and voiced by Hollywood actor Brian Cox.
Since its release on Friday, over 16,000 people have viewed the animation, The No Nightmare.