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Barnett Formula

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 18 December 2013

That is not quite what the Secretary of State said only a few weeks ago. Gary Robertson asked, “What about the Barnett formula? Will that change post-2014?” The Secretary of State said—because it was he—“Let me be absolutely clear, erm, erm, er, there will be no action taken on the Barnett formula, erm, erm, until the economy has erm, er, stabilised.” Help me Rona! Why is he not just straight with the Scottish people? We all know that the bosses and the paymasters of the no campaign—his Tory friends—want Barnett scrapped. Is that not the real cost to the people of Scotland—£4 billion?

It is a classic of the genre—synthetic outrage at its very best. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Barnett formula is one reason the people of Scotland reject independence. That is why he is operating his own little “Project Smear” to pretend that it is somehow at risk. The position has been put beyond any doubt today by the Prime Minister in a letter to the First Minister. The hon. Gentleman should explain that and tell the people of Scotland that the best way to get rid of the Barnett formula is to vote for independence.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Scotland Act 2012 transferred substantial tax-raising powers to Holyrood, and that these complex changes should be allowed to bed in before we start making any further radical changes?

Not only do I agree with my hon. Friend on that point, but I believe that the energies of the Scottish Government would be much better served if they were devoted to dealing with the implementation of those highly complex tax changes, which are due to come on stream in 2016, rather than running around and setting up scare stories of that sort.

The Barnett formula has served Scotland, and the Opposition believe that it is at the heart of redistribution across the entire UK, which is why we support it. I agree with the Secretary of State that the only threat to the Barnett formula is a vote for independence. Will he share with the House why he believes that the SNP Scottish Government do not understand that they are the only threat to the Barnett formula?

I have a strong suspicion that that is wilful on the part of the Scottish Government. As I said a few moments ago, they know that people in the United Kingdom value the Barnett formula so they try to pretend that there is some threat to it. That is part of their strategy. They identify things such as the pound, the Bank of England and the ability to build complex warships on the Clyde, which are the things that the people of Scotland value from being part of the United Kingdom, and then pretend that they can hold on to them while becoming independent. It is just not credible, which is why they are losing the argument.