Finally the Barnett Formula comes in handy – for allocating Scotland’s national debt

Posted on January 25, 2012

A lot of thought’s being put into the practical implications of Scottish independence – I suspect that if the country doesn’t become independent this time (which more English voters support than Scottish voters), it probably will in the next decade or two.

It’s the practical ramifications which are increasingly causing Alex Salmond touble. The problem being that the SNP likes to have its cake and eat it, too. Take fiscal devolution – when the TaxPayers’ Alliance proposed full fiscal devolution to the Scottish Parliament (an SNP manifesto policy), SNP spokesmen blew their lid because the report also called for an end to English Barnett Formula subsidies for Scotland.

So it has been with Alex Salmond’s plan for full independence – he wants to take as many powers and assets as possible, but leave the nation’s debts squarely on the shoulders of English taxpayers.

For example, he thinks that North Sea oil and gas should be allocated geographically (giving the Scots over 80% of the revenue) but national debt should be allocated on a per capita basis only (giving the Scots just over 8% of the total bill). This is particularly relevant when you start to consider where the debt and liability for RBS would fall in you took a geographical approach to where debt should be allocated.

Happily, someone on the Government E-petitions site has come up with an elegant solution. When we calculate the share of the national debt to be allocated to an independent Scotland, why not use the Barnett Formula?

Yes, is means each Scottish person would have 22% more debt than each English person, but if it’s fair for dishing the cash out then surely it’s fair for sharing the burden of our debts, too?

I’ve signed the e-petition here – I hope you will, too.

Invasion of the superblogs

Posted on July 15, 2011

I wrote when Iain Dale closed his personal blog about the potential future for the blogosphere as the balance of power shifted. As well as the upheavals in the mainstream media, the last couple of weeks has seen the first big change in the UK blogosphere for some time: the arrival of the superblogs.

With the launch of Huffington Post UK and Iain Dale and Co we’re experiencing the first tests of whether group blogging will succeed, and whether it will replace or complement the more atomised blogosphere that we’ve seen to date. My personal view is that it will be complementary – an online equivalent of the mainstream media which can afford to provide more regular and broader updating than individual blogs, but inevitably lacking the personalised character and focus of individuals (like yours truly).

For that reason, I’m pleased to say I will intermittently be contributing to both HuffPoUK and Dale & Co – writing about politics for the former and about media and culture for the latter. Needless to say, this blog will remain my focus, and the location of the vast majority of my writing. My first articles on each superblog have gone live this week, so please give them a bump by rating and commenting if you’d be so kind!

Here they are:

Iain Dale & Co: “Science Fiction should be abolished”

Huffington Post UK: “A new English politics is emerging – but which party will harness it?”