Sunday, 15 July 2007

Remote access

I've been reading stories like this for years:
THE new operators of the main Inverness to London air service have been inundated with complaints over delays and cancellations.

Flybe, which took the connections over from British Airways in March, has left furious passengers stuck waiting hours for planes.

Inevitably there'll be some local politician demanding that the government "does something about it". And some of those politicians will be claiming that if only the government actually ran the airlines none of these problems would occur. In reality of course things would be much worse and far more costly.

However, I do sympathise with the people in the Highlands who are concerned about the unreliability of transport links to the south, and not only those provided by the airlines. Actually, this problem of "remoteness" affects all of Scotland and isn't limited to the Highlands.

Back in 2002 I wrote this:

The UK is probably the most centralised of all modern countries. Even after devolution, 87% of our taxes are levied at the national level. In the US it's 18%. In the rest of Europe taxes are levied roughly half by the national governments and half locally. Where the taxes are collected goes economic and political power. I remember reading some years ago that Washington DC had the highest per-capita wages in the US and that most of them were dependent in some way on the federal government. That's in a country levying a mere 18% of taxation at the centre.

A very large part of London's economy is there precisely because it is the capital city of a country whose government spends some 40% of our GDP and whose London-resident ministers channel almost all of that expenditure through the London-based civil service. This in turn means that London hosts the national press (English, not British actually), the BBC, commercial TV, media-associated industries like advertising and PR, the political parties, almost all lobbyists, charities, trades unions and professional organisations. This centralisation of decision makers and influencers in turn makes London the natural location for the head offices of companies whose operations are spread throughout Britain. All of this is why the South-east dominates our economy and why it is impossible to solve the imbalances in housing and transport.

If we want to see a more economically balanced Britain we can either reduce government expenditure to, say, 10% of GDP, or we can spread government more evenly throughout the country. I support the first option. I suspect that neither will be implemented.

Nothing's changed since then except that the size of the state has got even bigger. Until we face up to the centralisation problem Inverness folk will continue to feel neglected and Britain's transport system will continue to creak.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comment made on previous template:

Andrew Duffin
Your strictures on over-centralisation are spot-on, but: 
"A very large part of London's economy is there precisely because it is the capital city..." 
I don't think so. 
A very large part of London's economy is there because it is the world's premier financial services hub.

20 July 2007, 11:23:07 GMT+01:00