The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) plan to take billions of pounds from Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish budgets to fund English tax breaks. The controversial proposal was announced at the party’s final conference before the general elections in May.
UKIP’s plan foresees the abolition of subsidies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The measure would save up to £8bn a year and the savings would be used to fund tax relief for English citizens.
Currently, subsidies are paid from Westminster to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland according to the Barnett formula, a financial system used to distribute public money across the UK’s nations and regions.
English MPs of the Conservative Party have advocated the abolition of the Barnett Formula, due to its perceived generosity towards Scotland.
It is widely believed that this latest proposal represents a UKIP attempt to appeal to potential voters in England, where they hope to gain a dozen or so seats in the upcoming Westminster general election.
Nicola McEwen, Professor of Territorial Politics at the University of Edinburgh, told The Student: “This isn’t a serious policy but an attempt by UKIP to peddle the myth that English voters subsidise the Scots in a bid to curry favour among English voters.
“There are many myths about the Barnett formula but territorial finance is more complicated. Scotland has historically fared quite well from the distribution of public funding […] but it could be reasonably argued that Scotland has also contributed more than its fair share to UK revenues, especially revenues from North Sea Oil.
Wales, by contrast, fares rather poorly from the system, and there are strong demands for a better deal for Wales when money is transferred to the devolved governments.”
The measure may serve to alienate support for UKIP from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, UKIP’s deputy chairman Suzanne Evans is in charge of the plan and presented the measure as proof of her party’s integrity.
She said it proved that UKIP are not “chasing votes”, but prepared to do “what is right”.
David Coburn, UKIP’s only Scottish MEP, also defended the policy by suggesting that if “Scotland wants to spend more, then it needs to raise more. People have got to understand that they are getting a lot more money than folks in England”.
Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray told The Student: “It is clear that UKIP don’t understand the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK. The Barnett formula redistributes to Scotland according to need and softens economic problems like a collapse in oil prices.
The threat to Barnett by UKIP and the SNP (due to their campaigning for full fiscal autonomy) would see Scotland worse off by £4bn. UKIP and the SNP must think again.”