25 May 2008

If the Conservatives win the next general election the contentious Barnett formula will be replaced with a needs-based formula: see the story in the Scottish newspaper the Herald for 23 May 2008 here .

David Cameron said he wanted the change to be “consensual” and “non-inflammatory.”

This is a sensible approach. The Barnett formula is unfair and perhaps helps to sustain an unwise economy in Scotland; it should be replaced with a formula fairer to all the deprived parts of Britain. See here where I explain that we can be much sharper in our focus on deprivation.

The Conservatives have little to lose electorally in Scotland and it will be interesting to see how the Scottish nationalists respond and whether Labour, with much more electoral support there than the Tories and dependent on Scottish seats for a UK majority, has the courage and energy to tackle the issue. As I have remarked before, the Liberal Democrats in Cornwall, while complaining about the share of Britain’s public money for Cornwall, never mention the formula, never mention Scotland’s share of public spending.

Of course, needs-based formulas have their problems as the disputes about Cornwall’s share of public spending show but the change from the present Barnett formula would be fairer and supportable.

Previous posts on the formula are here.