23 October 2009

Missing a trick?

Remember this story from a couple of days ago? This is the BBC's version:
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has published budget proposals for the devolution [to Northern Ireland] of policing and justice.
He said he had written to the party leaders outlining the budget, believed to be in the region of £800m-1bn. Mr Brown said he had made arrangements for the cost of dealing with security emergencies in Northern Ireland to be met from Treasury reserves.
There had been concerns at Stormont that future security problems could have swallowed up devolved budgets for services such as education, housing and health.

I rather expected the Scottish press and/or the SNP to jump on this story but no bites so far. Why does it matter to Scotland? The answer is because it drives a coach and horses through the Barnett Formula arrangements. Under the present arrangements, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are supposed to be content with their allocated share of public spending under that formula; there is some minor scope for fiddling about at the margins, but essentially no additional sums will be made available (even for new Forth Bridges).

But now, at a stroke, along comes Big Gordon to say that an extra £8oo million plus is to be made available, presumably on top of Northern Ireland's share allocated through Barnett.

Will Scotland and Wales have their shares boosted to match? (Fat chance.) But the next time the Chancellor of the Exchequer rules out any increase in Scotland's funding, the episode constitutes a convenient precedent for the SNP to quote.

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