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Money, money, money

Brian Taylor | 12:20 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Right, calculators out again. More on the public spending details due to be announced later today.

The SNP manifesto for May said: “We know from the most recent UK budget that the Comprehensive Spending Review will allocate an additional £1.8bn to the Scottish Block.”

This afternoon, we’ll learn the outcome of the CSR. However, it’s been suggested to me that the result for Scotland will be at least an extra £3bn over the three years covered by the review – 2008-11.

How’s that calculated? Take the existing Scottish Block, top it up by 2.5 per cent per annum to cover forecast inflation.

Then top it up again by 1.6 per cent annually. That’s the UK Government’s calculation of the growth rate in Scottish spending. Result: £3bn + more.

Everyone OK, then? Well, no. Far from it. SNP Ministers say that’s comparing apples and pears. Plus they suspect there’s a worm at the core of the apple.
How so?

Firstly, they contest the 1.6 per cent growth rate. They say that the baseline has been recalibrated, making the growth rate look more than it actually is.

Crucially, they’re not suggesting that’s been done for Scotland alone. Rather, they say the recalibration principally affected the NHS in England – with Scotland experience consequentials through the application of the Barnett formula.

Why does this matter? Because, if you recalibrate, you’re starting from a different – and, in this case, lower base. So the top up money appears, in percentage terms, more generous.

Labour response? Recalibration happens regularly – and is part of the Treasury mechanism.

Plus, if Scotland’s base has been shrunk by Barnett, then the top-up, again via Barnett, is proportionately better. Precisely, say the SNP, it’s a ruse.
But hold on. Treasury says £3bn increase. SNP forecast £1.8bn. What’s the problem?

Well, this. The £3bn figure includes money to cope with inflation. The £1.8bn doesn’t.

SNP Ministers say that when they forecast “an additional £1.8bn to the Scottish Block”, that was growth over and above inflation.

They point to an analysis of the various parties Scottish spending plans, conducted by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions.

That estimated that the CSR would be worth “an additional spending capacity” of almost £3.4bn over three years. So, say the SNP, if the Treasury is now talking about £3bn, that’s less than analysts expected. QED.

But, says Labour, the £1.8bn figure in the SNP manifesto didn’t have any caveats attached. Nor did the spending promises.

At this point, we return – almost thankfully – to raw politics. In essence, Labour will say: “You’ve got buckets of cash. OK, it’s tighter than in the past – but you shouldn’t have made costly promises you can’t keep. You knew this was coming. You said you’d need to make efficiency savings. Make them.”

The SNP will say: “It IS tighter than in the past. And it’s even tighter than you’re claiming. We’ll make efficiency savings – but don’t try to tell us this is a good deal. It’s lousy.”

PS: Perhaps I should respond to the little spat which has developed over comments in my previous blog, Pounds and Pence. The reference to “exaggerated, uncosted promises” in the SNP manifesto was a reflection of the Labour view.

When I used that phrase, I was quoting. Not endorsing. Quoting. It was attributed to Labour.

The clue is in the preceding line which began: “Labour says”.

If that wasn’t 100 per cent clear, then my apologies. Again, I was quoting. Not supporting or condemning.
I know it can be exasperating, as a reader, when you are perhaps looking for your own opinions to be sustained, rather than for analysis.

But, hey, that’s journalism. For the avoidance of any doubt, it is the only –ism to which I subscribe. (With the exception of fanatic-ism directed towards the boys in Tangerine.)


  • 1.
  • At 12:55 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Steven Manson wrote:

I apologise, Brian. I have my reasons for being a bit defensive on your previous article but I still think you're a wonderful reporter.

  • 2.
  • At 01:36 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

re: "The clue is in the preceding line which began: “Labour says”."

Actually if there was clue (which I doubt) then it was in the preceding paragraph.

Starting a new paragraph with a 'but' indicates a personal comment.

  • 3.
  • At 01:39 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Patrick Byrne wrote:

Thanks for that clarification, Brian. No, your final sentence was not 100% clear because it appeared as a separate paragraph, i.e. not directly linked to the previous "quote". I wasn't one of the people who commented, but must admit I myself was startled at the seemingly partisan tone of your conclusion.

  • 4.
  • At 02:02 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

Snoozing already! SNP are always going to blame Westminster. We're not hearing too much on Swinney's billion...

  • 5.
  • At 02:27 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • R. S. Tornaway wrote:

Jings Brian, my head hurts after reading that. Don't make me read it again.

What I'd like to know is whether the other parties could have fulfilled their manifesto pledges with these figures?

Then again It's hard to remember what they were, the Lib Dem chappy spoke a lot about children being the future...

  • 6.
  • At 03:02 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

sorry to hear some posters got carried away with their enthusiam and accussed you of bias. Unfortunately their is way too much of this going on in journalism in Scotland at the moment which neither serves the public or the various political parties either.

However kind of agree with the opposition on this one, It all we're gonna get so no negativity and show us how youre going to spend it then we,ll decide if you can really govern. Bitching that big Cuz westminster iznae playing fair is a little childish.

  • 7.
  • At 03:20 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

Once again the SNP doesnt have the good grace to accept that they got their figures wrong-whats wrong with these people, they have got more money than they thought! Any party that was actually interested in governing, not posturing would be happy about that fact, but not the SNP, who as weve seen increasingly over the last few days, have no intention or capacity to implement half of their manifesto. Come the next Scottish election, the Scottish people will have become increasingly aware of the lies nd broken promises of the SNP and they shall reap the whirlwind

  • 8.
  • At 03:29 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

And just to clear up any suspicion of bias, im very much a non party political animal-im one of the eternal floating voters

  • 9.
  • At 04:29 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Anne wrote:

Given the way Labour feel about the SNP I think the SNP have every right to be suspicious of the motives of Darling's budget allocation for Scotland. Especially the retort from Labour that the Scottish government have plenty to spend on education, health and transport. In other words, stay within the remit of the devolution agreement. Whilst they may be correct in terms of the Scotland Act, it smacks of a spiteful attitude. I would rather we had a Scottish government who has fiscal control. That is the only dignified to run a country.

  • 10.
  • At 05:31 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • JohnMcDonald wrote:

Actually, the "clue" was in the previous paragraph. And the paragraph prior to it gave the SNP view. So, frankly, there was no "if" about misleading.

And your apology was no real apology at all. Especially since you go on to have a go at people who took offence at your piece.

Clearly, Brian, you have been hanging around politicians too much.

  • 11.
  • At 06:29 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • willie wrote:

Quoting, Brian? You should use inverted commas to make it clear in that case.

The main point though, would be to not have used two separate sentences for the apparently offending text as this would have made your intention clear. Starting your penultimate sentence with "But..." was asking for trouble.

You can hardly blame some readers for taking it the wrong way... After all you work for the BBC!

Keep up the gossip otherwise :D

  • 12.
  • At 06:39 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • george alexander wrote:

Well, having just watched the item on BBC Scotland news I am quite appalled at the tone of Darlings answer to SNP MP Hosie's question.

Darling took great pleasure in stating that Salmond would find it impossible to implement his manifesto commitments.

As far as the funding itself is concerned then Brian, I was very disappointed in the way you sought to describe it as fair by applying existing Westminster treasury rules. By using that logic then apartheid in South Africa was also 'fair', until the rules changed.

That was the SNP's complaint, that NHS baseline in England had been manipulated in order to reduce the amount coming to Scotland.

One last point; what figure was Scottish Labour working against for their own recent election manifesto commitments?

  • 13.
  • At 07:24 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Harry Shanks wrote:

I hadn't read the previous blog entry until I saw the comments alluding to it - so I decided to take a look.

Brian you cannot get away with saying that you were merely quoting the Labour Party view - you put your next comment about SNP manifesto committments on a completely new paragraph! If this was part of the quote then why separate it by a paragraph?

I have come to expect the "UK" BBC to be biased but the bias emanating from BBC Scotland is getting beyond a joke.

On the Politics Show on Sunday just 24 hours after every serious political commentator agreed that Gordon Brown, in the face of the possibility of losing, had bottled out of calling an Election, your colleague Glen Campbell conducted a interview with the First Minister. In this piece, GC suggested that GB had done the SNP a favour by not calling the Election as the SNP were allegedly shaking in their boots at the prospect! How absurd!

At least GC did not restrict this quite ludicrous analysis to the SNP -he then proceeded to launch equally idiotic attacks on the same premise, on both the Tories and the Lib Dems.

I've no idea what he said to the Labour Party spokesperson David Cairns - I had switched off in disgust by that point.

It is high time that BBC Scotland got back to reporting the news and not the blatantly biased opinions of some of its broadcasters.

  • 14.
  • At 09:25 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Ken Mac wrote:

It is the job of the Scottish government of any particular hue to fight Scotlands corner. The difference between this government and the last one is that they do that while the last one would have kept quiet about it. Mr Darling is pochling the figures just like he did today with his big announcement about IHT allowances. He easily fooled the media including the BBC who are running the headline on the main part of this site, 'Inheritance tax cut for couples'. He did no such thing. The allowances and the tax rate are at exactly the same level they were this morning. It's all in the presentation (spin?) just like the budget figures.

  • 15.
  • At 09:44 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

Some 95% of Scottish companies are small businesses. The changes to capital gains tax will hit them hard and this is on top of increase in corporation tax they'll have to pay next year.

Labour giveth with one hand and taketh away plus a bit with the other.

  • 16.
  • At 10:03 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Man o' Moray wrote:

Oh deary me, the silly Scot's have not voted in another labour government. Ah well , better squeeze their pocket money for daring to democratically elect somebody other than Labour.

I firmly believe that we need fiscal autonomy or independence to have a clearly accountable system of governance. "Swinney's billion" is Scottish money anyway, that the treasury was hoarding and the North Britain Labour was too scared to access. I doubt than any of the parties promises could have been completely fulfiled with this money set out today. It just goes to show - in my view- how pointless the current constitutional arrangements are. All Holyrood can do is divy up the grant sent back up to Scotland, and nothing to effectivly influence the economy. Change is needed.

Labour's stance on this spending review would not look so pathetic if they had done something other since May than wingeing about how it was "all so unfair on them and that the SNP are liars". I believe that critisisms are more effective in politics if thay are at correct intervals and of qualitysubstance, not every day over minor occurences - which often results in voter indiference.

Labour are making too many mistakes north, and now south, of the border. Gordon Browns "bounce" is now at an end. Alex Salmond's "leap" has not yet fallen, maybe this is because the cuircumstances are so different. So far the SNP has aquired the trait of competence, an unprecedented occurence if you were to read the labour election propoganda.

I support the SNP, but I know that they will - like every other government - make mistakes. I just hope their first budget for Scotland isn't one of them.

  • 17.
  • At 10:51 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • Louise wrote:

Hi brian

Im glad you cleared up that little misunderstanding. I was a tad concerned. Now that you have been exonerated could we actually clear up some of the myths of bias in the press. The press are biased the press have always been biased and the press will always be biased. (does not apply to brian)Some of the press are particularly biased against the SNP which may explain the drop in readers they have had over the years. Therefore who you believe about this spending issue depends on where you get your information. The short answer is I dont beleive the press (due to bias).
I am also not an economist Mr salmond is so he might be telling the truth. I dont know. What i do know is that in a democracy there is freedom of the press. By the way if this doesnt get posted im assuming its due to bias.

  • 18.
  • At 11:53 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • wrhouston wrote:


I think you were perfectly clear and unbiased. The only people who complained were those who do not realise that the SNP have nothing to offer but empty promises and the cheap complaint that it is all London's fault. The perennial Scottish whinge.

  • 19.
  • At 11:53 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • David Jackson wrote:

Brian, delighted that your fanaticism is for the Tangerines - another great victory on Saturday.

I was intrigued by your article. If I am reading it corretly, then over the next 3 years, the SNP are being allocated £400m less than they had envisaged, hence it would be reasonable for them to claim that they are unable to deliver on part of their manifesto adding up to that amount. I rather suspect that they will not, and hide everything behind it.

My main issue is whether or not they are able to deliver the 1.5% savings per year they promised. Its always extremely difficult to do and one wonders if the discussion today is about trying to get their excuses in first.

  • 20.
  • At 04:07 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • willie wrote:

What was it about statistics someone once said.

Well it is the same for budgets as your article illustrates.

What however is crystal clear is that the Westminster Government are all about spin.

Fiscal autonomy for Scotland would assist bring better accoutability and responsibilty, notwithstanding better visibilty - but somehow our Westminster friends don't go for this.

So for the time being we will all continue looking forward to your fine blog explaining the un-explainable in terms that we might understand.

Now explain this please if you would. Does BBC Scotland gets more than its fair share of the corporation's budget. It has been reported that Scotland at 9% of the UK population receives around 3% of spend. True or false and there is no bias in the BBC!

  • 21.
  • At 08:27 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

If the SNP want more money, then they can explain that to the electorate and raise tax (they have that power).

Thing is, I don't remember "penny for Scotland" being very popular.

  • 22.
  • At 08:27 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • interested by-stander wrote:

Doesn't this episode simply confirm that at heart our constitutional settlement is unworkable?

In any normal system an opposition party in an election campaign could propose levels of public expenditure based on how it proposes to raise revenue. The electorate could consider both the expenditure and tax plans and vote on that basis. Once in power the party, now government, would be held to account should it fail to deliver on either the expenditure or revenue raising side.

Not so in Scotland where the (Scottish) government cannot determine revenue but is responsible for expenditure.

This seems to me to undermine accountability and the functioning of parliamentary democracy.

  • 23.
  • At 09:27 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Is it not strange that for an SNP administration we find the baseline of calculation in England has been manipulated such that the eventual outcome is less money for Scotland; as Gordon Brown’s hand was clearly on the shoulder of Alasdair Darling both these MPs and especially their constituents need to review their political loyalties?

Gordon Brown has clearly suffered from his own version of Red Shift, clearly moving away from the Scottishness towards Britishness, in an attempt to increase his appeal south of the border, Gordon Brown had better watch his step or he may have to follow the example of Malcolm Rifkind.

  • 24.
  • At 10:09 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Bob wrote:

What a mess.

Surely it would be easier to calculate the tax receipts for Scotland - subtract the proportion of the costs allocated for reserved matters - then hand the rest over?

Why are politicians driven by an insatiable need for over-complication, red tape and the unnecessary promotion of their own party agendas?

Small wonder they fail to engage the majority of electors.

  • 25.
  • At 11:37 AM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Ken wrote:

Given difference in the % increases in the years when labour controlled Scotland vs the increase now that they do not, is there not a suspicion here that the Scots are beign 'penalised' for not voting labour back in. As one previous poster noted - could the other parties have satisfied their manifesto pledges with the increase? and if labour had been voted back in, would they have been given a higher amount to allow them to deliver more for Scotland and provide a better image for labour in Scotland (to deliver all those labour seats for westminster)..... hmmmmmm .......

  • 26.
  • At 12:02 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

"journalism... the only –ism to which I subscribe."

Well if you don't believe in national-ism, or union-ism, were does that leave you, Brian?

  • 27.
  • At 12:18 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • GI wrote:

Until everyone starts comparing the figures in the same way the general public will always be confused by the plethora of numbers that are issued by both the politicians and in the press.
We have the chancellor stating that the Scottish Government has 30.1 million of a budget but that is in three years time, next year the budget is 27.2 million. In the BBC report “Chancellor defends spending share” there are figures reported at the bottom of the report showing the increases over the next three years but the figures quoted are increases with this year as the base so the increase this year is also included in the increases for the two following years. Surely an increase should be compared from one year to the next
I eventually managed to get the figures and calculated the percentage increase year on year (after allowing 2.5 percent for inflation) and these were different from those quoted by all the politicians.
If the politicians want to engage with the public then they should be informing them in the simplest way instead of all the confusing numbers that are quoted.

  • 28.
  • At 12:19 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • HughB wrote:

Labour are at it again. Squeezing Scotland from both sides, even though they are no longer in power in Scotland (and are never likely to be again at this rate).

They forced through a tram system that few, if any, people in Scotland wanted, which will take a sizable chunk out of the budget. They also have control of the budget which Scotland is allocated from all the money which they take from Scotland. It just should not be like this. Budgets are meant to be about what is needed to run a country, not what pain a political opponent south of the border in control of our budget can inflict on us.

The only solution is total independance. That way, Westminster will not have to complain about Scotland getting a bigger share of the pie (we all know that is not the case), and Scotland will not have to complain to Westminster about not getting an adequate share of the money we put into the pot.

We have to put this in perpective. Scotlands total budget is roughly equivalent to the budgets for London Olimpics, Crossrail, Channel Tunnel links, etc. Not much for a whole country when compared to pet projects for London, is it!

  • 29.
  • At 01:47 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Dave "Boy" wrote:

Put simply.......this SNP administration have in real terms, MORE money to spend than the previous incumbents. When you add to that their success in securing the underspends from previous years you'd think they'd be pretty satisfied....

But no, rather than talk up their success they continue to pick fights with the UK Govt, and attempt to fool the electorate into believing they have had a budget cut which is complete nonsense!

And still, a deafening silence from the SNP on how the 1.5% efficiency savings promised within their manifesto are going to be delivered. STOP WHINGEING AND START GOVERNING PLEASE.

  • 30.
  • At 03:46 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • martin wrote:

re no 7(anthony)

i wont stop whinging until london starts subsidising theirselves for projects like the £16 billion crossrail and the westminster government stops using scotland's oil to do so. so it seems they want to punish the scottish people for voting in snp in may, well after yesterdays farce its a plain as the nose on all our faces that the sooner we get independence for scotland and control all our own affairs the better.

the whirlwind has already happened anthony. they said it couldnt be done but the snp came from way back to gain huge swings all over scotland from labour and are now our government! the tide has turned against labour in scotland and their stranglehold has been broken. the dark days of nothingness of lib/lab carve ups are gone. for a change the snp are putting scotland first and telling westminster its not enough but then labour up here never did or indeed would have today stuck up for their own scottish people against their labour masters. thats why they are in opposition and likely to stay there for a long time. things will only get worse for them in scotland. i wouldnt want your apology anyway wendy alexander as i dont trust you or labour.

  • 31.
  • At 04:06 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Leuchars wrote:

Andy 1202pm asks if Brian is neither a supporter of Nationalism or Unionism, where does that leave him.
Had a wee smile at that. A few weeks ago on the Herald ,Ruth Wishart was threatening a poster with her lawyer
for having the cheek to call her a Unionist.
wrhouston at 1153pm appears confident about the ism category that Brian falls into.

Like most political journalists of long standing, he plays the game.
I don't thnk too much information would come his way from Labour if he was overly critical of them.
They can be pretty ruthless in cutting you off if they don't like what you say about them.

I think the category he falls into is maybe survivalism and I would not criticise him for that.

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