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Scotland - Sally's Journal
October 29th, 2007
11:52 am

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Scotland
Having just spent a weekend in Scotland, I thought I'd talk about Scotland.

The Independant had the headline "Scotland 10 England 0" the other day, which after I disengaged the part of my brain that filters out sport turned out to be a long list of things Scotland do "better". Or at least better for me, because I'm a lefty liberal type - free prescriptions, no tuition fees for universities, smaller classes, free personal care for the elderly etc.

So the thing I don't get is how they manage it. Because this stuff does have a cost. Either they must
a) have higher taxes
b) spend less money on some other stuff, either by
b1) actually having less other stuff
or
b2) letting England pay for other stuff that we use as a Union (maybe central civil service? army?)
c) take money from England to pay for it.

Any ideas?

(Also, why does "an union" sound wrong?)

Other devolution issues are also in the news, to whit whether scottish MPs should vote on English issues that are devolved in Scotland (here). No-one seems to be mentioning very loudly that Scottish MPs at Westminster don't have seats at Holyrood and don't get to vote on devolved Scottish issues either (as I understand it, please tell me if I am confused). As England doesn't have an equivalent of the scottish exec there seems no way to bring fair symmetry back to this without forming an english one or getting rid of the scottish one (so Scottish MPs were also the scottish exec and they weren't two seperate things). I mean, a quick bodge-job to fix the problem of the one the Tories suggest would at least highlight the problem, but it really isn't a solution. But I think the problem is a serious one, and it does need fixing.

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From:gayalondiel
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:26 pm (UTC)
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Also, why does "an union" sound wrong?

No idea about the Scotland stuff, but this is because the 'u' of 'union' is not a "pure" vowel or even a diphthong made of "pure" vowels, but a combination of the consonant sound 'y' and the vowel sound 'oo'. I suspect grammatically "an union" is correct but it sits very uncomfortably when pronounced.
From:senji
Date:October 29th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
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"a union", "an hotel" -- it's very simple really :)
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From:simont
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)
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There is in principle the possibility d) Scotland manages to do more for the same amount of tax by being less wasteful and inefficient, with the sub-possibility d') this is only possible because it's smaller so all the organisational tasks which scale as convex functions of population have inherently better value-per-person.

No idea whether it's remotely true or not, but it's worth adding to your list of possibilities to consider, which seems to assume that the same stuff costs the same amount no matter how you achieve it.

I agree with gayalondiel: "union" has an implicit y-as-consonant at the front of it, and hence it's "a union" just as it would be "a youth" or other similarly pronounced words.
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From:lavendersparkle
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:33 pm (UTC)
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From:atreic
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure I've understood that, so I thought I'd ask you because you're cleverer than me. Does it say that "in the old days it was very unfair and Scotland got a lot more than us, but now we are sorting that out very very slowly and so Scotland is still getting a fair amount more than us per head wihtout having higher taxes"?

I think that's c, and it's sad, because I wanted the answer to be "it's possible to do this better" not "it's only possible to do this better by taking money from somewhere else".
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From:ewx
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC)
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Central government spending per head is apparently about £1,500 higher in Scotland than England; see ‘Barnett Formula’. I've no idea if this is what gives the Scottish government the extra room for maneuvre or if there's more to it than that.
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From:ewx
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
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I don't understand what the problem is in the 2nd paragraph: what exactly is unfair and to who? If the complaint is simply that things are (and with an English Grand Committee, would continue to be) not organized in exactly the same way in Scotland and England, why is that unfair - surely the point of devolution is (or includes) that the different countries are free to organize their affairs in different ways?
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From:mewo2
Date:October 29th, 2007 12:47 pm (UTC)
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Sort of c):

For historical reasons (Scotland used to have a larger population in comparison with England), Scotland's share of the total UK budget is slightly higher per capita than England (but still lower than Wales or Northern Ireland). This means that it receives slightly more per capita funding to pay for various social services, although this is being reduced, something which Alex Salmond is kicking up a bit of a stink about. He does have a point however, because the answer is also:

d) Have more wealth to apply their taxes to.

Scotland has (relatively) enormous reserves of oil and gas, and a small population, which means that it contributes a disproportionate amount of the UK budget. Were Scotland independent, and raising and spending its own taxes, it would be more or less as rich as it is now, and social services would probably get an even larger piece of the pie, as an independent Scotland would be unlikely to maintain a military force at UK levels, as well as being able to set its own taxation policy, which would likely be leftier than that of Westminster.
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From:senji
Date:October 29th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
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Well, apart from the fact that no Government in Westminster is going to let the Scots escape without taking the North Sea off them first, and there are some very amusing precedent-supported boundaries you can draw across the North Sea that leave the vast majority of the oil and gas in the England-controlled bit.
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From:catyak
Date:October 29th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
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I think that there is a net subsidy from England to Scotland, in terms of the tax raised in each country and the amount spent per head in each country.

D
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From:the_elyan
Date:October 29th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Allowing for the usual "Wikipedia - trust it and be damned" problem, the West Lothian Question is generally where the whole thing starts.
From:neonchameleon
Date:October 29th, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)
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1: Be subsidised by those of us south of the border under the Barnett formula
2: Be subsidised by the EU for poverty
3: Be subsidised by North Sea Oil and Gas.
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From:pozorvlak
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
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4: Be able to set interest and taxation rates in the interests of your own economy rather than London's?
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From:atreic
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
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Hmm. The City of London probably gives a lot more money to the treasury than it gives back too. But I must admit, I should have considered "be richer" as another option - it's subtly different to "be taxed more".
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From:neoanjou
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
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No-one seems to be mentioning very loudly that Scottish MPs at Westminster don't have seats at Holyrood and don't get to vote on devolved Scottish issues either (as I understand it, please tell me if I am confused).

Indeed you are correct, however as I understand this it isn't too much of an issue (most Westminster MPs are MSPs, and if they aren't then I wouldn't imagine its too hard to get them elected at the next elections - if needs be just put them at the top of the additinal members list).

But I think the problem is a serious one, and it does need fixing.

I agree. As someone seemed to indicate above - probably something like 90% of English people don't like the situation as it is now, but probably 80% of them don't think its a very important issue.

Ironically (and I say this as a card-carrying Conversative) the *best* plan for a Conservative government would be to grant (would one say grant?) full independence to Scotland and Wales [I also like the plan of saying 'most N. Irish protestants were (however far back) Scottish, we should make N. Ireland a part of an independent Scotland'). Therefore meaning that the majority Labour voting S. Wales and Scotland were no longer an influence at the parliament. Its never gonna happen, what with the Conservatives being the 'Conservative and Unionist' party in Scotland, but I nevertheless think it is the best solution.

If we're going to retain the union, then I'd like to see a ground-up approach to devolution. Lets start by granting powers to the regions with the strongest self-identity with different solutions in different areas - for instance Cornwall may be best served by a council which subsumes the county council and has 20 members; the Isle of Wight may do best under a Mayoral system like London; Yorkshire may need an actual assembly akin to Wales.

Lets also let regions define themselves - if Lincolnshire feels it is closer in culture to Yorkshire (and Yorkshire agree) then let them form a region together. If Cornwall wants to be fully autonomous then let it. We may well end up with areas which has a disparity of population, but a number of federal states are already able to coap with that perfectly well (USA: California - 36.5M, Wyoming 500K; Germany: North Rhine-Westphalia 18.0M, Bremen 670K; Spain: Andalusia 7.8M, La Rioja 300K (and if you include the independent cities, then Melilla 65K)
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From:atreic
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
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most Westminster MPs are MSPs

Really? I didn't think that was true at all - I thought it was practically impossible to be an MP and an MSP (if only because you'd be trying to do the job of two exceedingly busy people)
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From:ilanin
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:41 pm (UTC)
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I don't see why it matters that Scottish MPs don't get to vote on Scottish issues. Scottish executive members *do*, and the Scottish consitutents, who elect them, have the ability to select representatives which cover decision making at all levels as it affects Scotland. Likewise, English MPs cover both national and union-level decision making for England.

What's silly is that Scottish MPs influence national-level decision making for England, despite being the representatives of Scottish electors (and that they and the Welsh give Labour a much larger majority than they'd otherwise have - at the next election it's entirely plausible that the Conservatives will have a working majority in England alone but there'll be a hung Parliament overall).
From:hsenag
Date:October 29th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
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The issue is why people living in Scotland should have power over English issues when people living in England don't have power over Scottish issues; the MPs or MSPs are just the medium through which that power is exercised.
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From:ptc24
Date:October 29th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
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The internet seems to agree with your usage:

Results 1 - 10 of about 2,040,000 for "a union". (0.08 seconds)
Personalised Results 1 - 10 of about 222,000 for "an union". (0.20 seconds)
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From:jy100
Date:October 30th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)
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Well, at least Tam Dalyell was staunch but honourable (in the days when it was possible to be a/an honourable Unionist).
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From:vectorious
Date:October 29th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
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This suggests that Scotland get much more money per head (£1500/person) but that this would largely match off the oil revenues that the North sea generates.
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From:robert_jones
Date:October 30th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
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The great problem is that it's plainly correct that the people of West Lothian ought not to have a say on matters concerning West Bromwich when the people of West Bromwich have no say on the same matters concerning West Lothian. The present system is impossible to justify in theory. Unfortunately, there is no viable alternative short of disbanding the Union, which I rather think is the way things will go. This was why devolution was always a bad idea. It was never going to be possible to stop for long at such a halfway house.
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From:oedipamaas49
Date:October 30th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
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There are any number of fixes to this - maybe not elegant, but certainly workable. e.g. it could just become an informal parliamentary convention that scottish mps abstain on votes affecting england. Or there are the more serious approaches to create some kind of english assembly (which doesn't require disbanding the Union).

Surely the real problem is that devolution was implemented by Labour, who have a vested interest in seeing Scotland over-represented.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 30th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
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I don't understand the Scottish independance movement at all. They're part of a country which ruled most of the globe, and which is still a player in world affairs punching way above its weight and with influence both military, political and economic out of all proportion to its size, which is desired as a market and as an ally, and they want to give it up to be a little backwater territory that nobody cares about?

I mean what?

Are they not pround to be British?

S.
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From:jy100
Date:October 30th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
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You're part of a continent which ruled most of the globe, and which is still a player in world affairs punching way above its weight and with influence both military, political and economic out of all proportion to its size, which is desired as a market and as an ally. Are you not proud to be European?
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:October 30th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
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I've been reading a very thorough analysis of the defence situation for an independent Scotland, and b2 is definitely true for that domain.

To a fairly large extent, c is true as well. Faslane (HMNB Clyde/RNAD Coulport), for example, takes in about £250m of direct funding and has around 10,000 people living (and spending their wages) in the local area.
(And Policy #1 of the SNP in an independent Scotland is to close it...)
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