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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Formula For The Break-Up Of Britain

When the Barnett formula was devised in 1978, it was meant to share annual Government spending equitably between the countries of the United Kingdom according to their populations.

Unjust: Joel - now Baron - Barnett has advocated scrapping the funding formula he devised for Scotland

In the intervening decades, it has become nothing less than a grossly unfair tax on the English to subsidise lavish public services in Scotland.

This is because the formula has not changed, though the population of England has risen sharply over those 33 years, while that of Scotland has remained static.

The result is that the Scottish subsidy has grown to such an extent that even Lord Barnett, the former Labour cabinet minister who invented the formula, thinks it is unjust and should be scrapped.

New figures which we reveal today show that public spending is now £1,624 per person higher in Scotland than in England, up 15 per cent in just a year.

This equates to the average English family being forced to pay more than £400 a year to fund Scottish services, and that the figure is sure to go on rising.

The scale of the handout allows the Scots to enjoy benefits the English can only dream of – free prescriptions, residential elderly care, university tuition, primary school meals, hospital parking, and most recently cancer drugs.

The injustice is palpable and, unless rectified, it presents a real danger to the integrity of the Union.

Danger to the integrity of the Union: Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond wants full independence.

Recent opinion polls show fewer than a third of Scots in favour of independence. But in England, a clear majority believe it is time for them to go it alone.

If the Barnett formula is not reformed, resentment south of the border can only grow and it may soon be the English, not the Scots who demand the break-up of the United Kingdom.

Is it too cynical to suggest that is precisely what Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond wants?

Harsh but fair

Even the leader of Britain’s prison governors has now joined the shrill chorus of liberal protest over tough punishments meted out to those involved in this month’s riots.

In an extraordinary and intemperate attack, Eoin McLennan-Murray accuses magistrates of indulging in a ‘sentencing frenzy’, likening them to ‘sharks when there’s blood in the water’.

He said guidelines were being flouted and defendants unfairly treated.

Flashpoint: Riots across London and other cities of England in earlier this month were among the worst scenes of civil disobedience in recent history.

There is no doubt that magistrates and judges have taken a robust approach. Of more than 1,400 people brought before the courts in connection with the mayhem, around 70 per cent have either been given jail terms or remanded in custody awaiting sentence — far more than is usual.

But what did Mr McLennan-Murray expect magistrates to do? Put them back on the streets to wreak more havoc?

Offences included aggravated burglary, robbery, violent disorder, assault, arson and even murder.

In their own right these are all serious crimes, but against a backdrop of indiscriminate looting, destruction and anarchy they constitute a serious danger to the fabric of society.

So, understandably, the courts came down hard on perpetrators, in many cases handing out exemplary sentences.

If punishments are deemed too harsh, there is a perfectly sound appeal court system to moderate them.

And precisely what does sentencing policy have to do with a prison governor anyway? His role is surely to contain, and where possible rehabilitate offenders, not determine how long they should serve.

Perhaps Mr McLennan-Murray should just get on with his own job and let magistrates get on with theirs.

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