sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland

The yah-boo Union

Posted on November 13, 2011 by

There's a mildly remarkable story on the BBC website today. While the Herald reports that John Swinney has "thwarted" the UK coalition government's plans to drastically slash public-sector pensions, the BBC covers an SNP claim, based on the UK Government's own GERS statistics, that Scotland is better placed to afford pensions and welfare than the UK.

One might imagine that when responding to this claim, the Scotland Office would be armed with its own interpretation of the facts and figures with which to refute the SNP's assertions. Instead, what we actually get is an extraordinary playground outburst in which the Scottish Government is accused of "Flat Earth economics", and an increasingly hysterical rant in which an unnamed spokesman rages:

"Their argument completely fails to explain how much pensions and welfare would be and who would administer or pay for them or exactly how a separate Scotland with a smaller tax base [1], an ageing population [2] and a bigger ratio of public sector workers and welfare claimants [3] could possibly lead to things being better."

…to which the answer would presumably be "for the precise reasons outlined in the UK Government's own figures – Scotland spends less on those things than the UK does, and could therefore afford to be more generous, even if you discount the argument that an independent Scotland would be better off than at present."

The Scotland Office is funded by the taxpayer. We're not sure it should be getting this angry about what would appear by any interpretation to be positive news for Scotland.


[1] In fact Scotland contributes 9.4% of UK taxation with 8.4% of the population.

[2] Also true of the UK as a whole, not just Scotland.

[3] This is, of course, already factored into the GERS figures.

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