‘Subsidised Scots’ myth now embedded in English psyche as resentment builds


By G.A.Ponsonby
The myth that Scotland is subsidised by England is leading to a growing resentment south of the border according to results of a new survey.
The IPPR report “The Dog That Finally Barked” has highlighted growing demands within England for more autonomy fuelled by a belief that the current constitutional set up is unfair and Scots receive more than their fair share of UK resources.

The poll reveals that amongst the English, Britishness as an identity is on the decline with over twice as many south of the border now opting to be described as English (40%) rather than British (16%).

Worryingly for the three main Unionist parties, only 23 per cent of those surveyed felt that the interests of the English were addressed by either the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Dems.  59 per cent admit that they no longer trust the UK Government to look after the long term interests of England.

According to the report 80 per cent of English now favour devo-max for Scotland amid a growing English cultural politicisation resulting from Welsh and Scottish devolution.

The report’s authors claim the results are evidence of an emerging “English political culture” amid growing anger at what many believe to be “privileges” enjoyed by the Scots at the English expense.

Key points of the report include:

  • The number of voters in England who believe that Scottish devolution has made the way Britain is governed worse (35 per cent) has doubled since 2007.
  • The English increasingly believe they get a raw-deal from the devolved settlement, with 45 per cent of voters in England saying that Scotland gets ‘more than its fair share of public spending’ – the number agreeing with this has almost doubled since 2000. Meanwhile 40 per cent of voters in England say that England gets ‘less than its fair share’ of public money.
  • 52 per cent of English respondents believe that Scotland’s economy benefits more than England’s from being in the UK, while less than one in four believe England and Scotland’s economies benefit equally.
  • While support for Scottish independence remains low – only 22 per cent say Scots should go it alone – the English strongly support the view that the current devolved settlement should be reformed.   At fully 80 per cent, there is also overwhelming support in England for ‘devolution-max’ (full fiscal autonomy) for Scotland, with 44 per cent agreeing strongly. 
  • 79 per cent say Scottish MPs should be barred from voting on English laws, with an absolute majority agreeing strongly with that proposition.
  • There has been a sharp rise since 2007 in the proportion of English voters who say they agree strongly with barring Scottish MPs from voting on English laws and ‘devolution-max’, which underlines the intensity of feeling now associated with these reforms.

SNP MSP and member of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee Paul Wheelhouse said that independence for both nations would allow a new partnership between both nations.

Responding to the report, Mr Wheelhouse said:

“Independence is by far the simplest answer to the West Lothian Question currently concerning Westminster and offers a new 21st century partnership between Scotland and the rest of the UK that would end the misconceptions over Scotland’s ability to pay her own way.

“Independence will mean no Scottish MPs at Westminster, Scotland raising all the money it spends, decisions taken in Scotland for Scotland by those that live here.  Year on year, Scotland pays more into the UK Exchequer than we get in return.

“Taking all Scottish revenues and all spending in Scotland into account – including the financial sector interventions – the official Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures show that Scotland has run a current budget surplus in four of the five years to 2009/10, while the UK was in current budget deficit in each of these years, and hasn’t run a current budget surplus since 2001/02.

“The latest GERS figures show that Scotland generated 9.4 per cent of UK tax with 8.4 per cent of the population – the equivalent of 1,000 pounds extra for every man, woman and child in Scotland.”

The myth of the Scottish ‘subsidy junkie’ has its roots based in the seventies when, after the discovery of North Sea Oil, successive Scottish Unionist politicians, in a bid to halt the rise in support for the SNP, claimed that Scotland would be worse off if independent.

In 1988, after Jim Sillars won the Govan by-election, the late Donald Dewar, when shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, claimed that an independent Scotland would have an economy similar to Bangladesh.  He was roundly condemned for doing so.

In 1974 a report written by economist Gavin McCrone for the UK Government, revealed that an independent Scotland would have been one of the wealthiest nations on earth with an embarrassing tax surplus.

Far from being a basket case, as claimed by Scottish Labour MPs, Scots would have become richer. Scotland would be in a position to lend heavily to England and “this situation could last for a very long time into the future.” wrote McCrone in the 19 page report.

However the incoming Labour administration classified the document as secret and it was not until 2005, after thirty years had expired, that the truth emerged after the SNP submitted a freedom of information request.


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