By Martin Kelly
The SNP is warning that a No vote in the independence referendum will leave Scotland’s most vulnerable at risk after a Tory MP called for cuts to the Scottish block grant.
The nationalists were responding to remarks from Priti Patel, after the Conservative MP for Witham in Essex, claimed that Scots cost the UK government billions and get a better deal than everyone else.
According to the Daily Record, Patel – who was one of David Cameron’s ‘A-list’ candidates – launched a tirade against what she called the “funding imbalance” of the Barnett formula and demanded that Scotland start to “pay for itself”.
She added: “Scots are basically getting a better deal than the rest of the country…These are considerable sums of money which should be reduced as part of the deficit reduction plans.”
In her speech Ms Patel then went on to suggest that devolution should be used as a vehicle for the Tories to inflict brutal spending cuts:
“When you think about the prevailing doctrine in all the parties in Scotland, everyone is talking about more devolution. So there is a good opportunity now for the UK Government to actually start having discussions to make sure that Scotland actually pays for itself.”
Despite the Tory MP’s claim, independent figures show that significantly higher tax revenue is generated in Scotland. Official figures prove that Scotland generates 9.6% of the UK tax revenue, in return for just 9.3% of expenditure.
The remarks were made in a speech to the Thatcherite Institute for Economic Affairs – described by Andrew Marr as “the most influential think tank in modern British history” – which the SNP claims provides an insight into what Tories have planned for Scotland in the event of a No vote in 2014.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has previously suggested that the Barnett formula will be reviewed after 2014, in the event of a No vote. The SNP have now called on Ms Davidson to confirm that Scotland more than pays her way, and to urgently rule out any disproportionate cuts from Westminster.
Commenting, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn – who sits on the Finance Committee – said:
“What unbelievable clap-trap from this top Tory – and a huge embarrassment to Ruth Davidson. Once again the Tory mask has slipped, and we see the true attitude of the UK Government towards Scotland.
“Scotland more than pays its way in the UK – generating 9.6% of the UK tax revenue in return for just 9.3% of expenditure – but who can doubt that the Tories would cut Scotland’s budget even further if the referendum result was No.
“These people are making all of the key decisions about how much money can be spent in Scotland – yet they have been overwhelmingly rejected by the Scottish electorate time and time again.
“Ruth Davidson herself is implicated in this row, as she has also called for a ‘review’ of Scotland’s funding formula after 2014. That is clearly Tory-speak for ‘cut’, which makes a Yes vote in the referendum essential for the sake of the public services that we all value – such a free personal care and no tuituion fees. Ruth Davidson must clarify whether she agree with Priti Patel – as her previous remarks suggest – or not.
“At least now we are actually beginning to get some clarity from the anti-independence parties as to what a No vote would mean for Scotland. Unfortunately, we are finding out that it is set to mean more brutal and disproportionate cuts – which is why it is important that the referendum result is Yes.”
Last month a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) confirmed that Scotland is in a stronger financial position than the UK as a whole.
According to the IFS, Scotland’s public finances have been stronger than the UK’s in every year from 2006-07 to 2010-11 with an average fiscal deficit lower than the UK’s since 2000.
The report also confirmed that Scotland’s GDP is currently higher than the rest of the UK and tax revenues generated north of the border are greater than the amount spent on public services.