Sunday 4 November 2007

Reply to James Higham (Part 5)

One of the perennial myths about Scotland quoted in the Herald replies goes something like this: "55% of Scottish workers are employed by the state".

I wrote about this issue here:

There were 580,500 working in the public sector in the first quarter of 2007 - down 4,900 or 0.8% - compared to the same period last year.

... It compares with almost two million workers who were employed in the private sector in Scotland in the first quarter of 2007.

That's very slightly higher than the English proportion.

Now, it's perfectly true that total public expenditure in Scotland is far higher than the proportion of public sector workers - just as is the case in England. Governments spend on big capital projects and many private companies have contracts with the state. Are such expenditures too high in Scotland? Of course they are. I'm a libertarian and think that almost all government expenditure should be eliminated, everywhere.

One of the greatest problems faced by Scotland is the comparatively high pay and pension benefits enjoyed by the 23% who do work in the state sector. Private companies (with higher than average UK transport costs) find it very difficult to offer the same packages as are available in a state sector that often has UK-wide wage agreements. So the bright youngster chooses government employment and that is detrimental to economic growth. That's why I am perfectly happy to see Scotland's public sector expenditure slashed - quite apart from the fact that many of these jobs shouldn't exist at all.

I note from Friday's figures that even if Scotland had no oil revenues whatsoever its per capita tax take would still be higher than anywhere else in the UK outside the southeast of England. The conclusion must be that an independent Scotland could survive perfectly well - given sensible economic policies.

Such is the bitterness caused by bad reporting and analysis that I now suspect that independence will be thrust upon us whether we want it or not. I do hope that we'll continue to jointly fund and share the defence function should separation occur. Wales and Northern Ireland will have a lot more to worry about than will Scotland if England decides to go it alone.

That's it. Time for a dram.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David B. Wildgoose
Indeed, it is Wales and Northern Ireland who will suffer most if the UK breaks up. I have said as much myself on the Campaign for an English Parliament news blog.

And as an ex-Unionist who is now in favour of an independent England this is a matter to me of the exact same indifference that the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have for the injustice being done to me and mine for our "crime" of being English.

All Prime Ministers want a monument. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will go down in history as the Scottish anglophobic bigots who ensured that the UK broke up.

Gordon Brown can't even bring himself to use the word "England". He is passing legislation that will mean 18 year old young English adults can help choose the next government but won't be allowed to choose to leave school.

And like most of this government's authoritarian statist programme, it doesn't apply to Scotland.

Road Pricing anyone? Oh, don't worry, you're Scottish - it doesn't apply to you. Just the opposite in fact, Scottish bridge tolls are being scrapped.

You're right about one thing though, it will be the English that break the Union. But it will be a direct reaction to the outright bigotry and disdain with which our so-called "partners" in the Union hold us.
11 November 2007, 16:42:04 GMT – Like – Reply

Ken Adams
David, I can see why EV on EM would be considered more divisive to the UK than a separate Parliament for Scotland and Wales, because it disrupts the workings of the UK government, I do not see it as an answer. So the real answer must be a separate English Parliament. We could then have a much smaller UK Government structure. Not likely given that Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

So we are left with the position that Scottish and Welsh MPs are often voting on proposals that only affect us in England, in the long run this is unsustainable.

Full Fiscal independence for Scotland would rather add to the basic problem of democratic accountability, that is the Westlothian Question, unless you are arguing for total independence. The sting is not now how the Scots might feel, but how the English might react to being ruled by an unaccountable political order.

It really is unsustainable to have a Prime Minister who is not accountable to the majority of people for the majority of areas on which he leads legislation, supported by a large contingent of similarly unaccountable MPs.

But it is not the present calls from England to rectify the imbalance; it was the original devolution which created it in the first place.
7 November 2007, 08:21:22 GMT – Like – Reply

dave fordwych
Your comment about the benefits pay,pension etc.(and I would add holidays)enjoyed by public sector workers being difficult for private sector employers to compete with is right on the money.

I employ a nephew in a fairly typical small business in the manufacturing sector.Several of his pals are employed by a well known government agency.The salaries,pension entitlements and holidays they receive- not to mention the relaxed attitude to actual hours worked-are mind boggling for fairly young lads and lassies who mostly can't believe their luck.

Frankly,we cannot come close to matching these rewards and I admit to feeling quite bitter,that our taxes support a situation where someone who is working hard in a productive job is so poorly remunerated by comparison with people most of whose jobs could disappear tomorrow and never be noticed by anyone other than themselves.
5 November 2007, 22:24:31 GMT – Like – Reply

Which ignores the thing I've been constantly posting about - that England is to be broken inot the nine divisions it already is in - but this time as regions of the EU.
5 November 2007, 17:05:39 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David Farrer
England! Is not in the position to, as you say “to go it alone”, it is Scotland that is moving towards that goal.

I know what you're getting at but David Cameron's understandable calls for English votes for English laws could well lead to England deciding to "go it alone" - especially given that the English media persists in using very misleading statistics.

The majority in Scotland is still for the Union, albeit one with a devolved parliament. The Herald's figures show that Scotland England are both more or less financially self-sufficient. Not so with Wales and NI.

I would welcome "full fiscal freedom" for Scotland, as that seems the only way to take the sting out of the argument.
5 November 2007, 07:47:18 GMT – Like – Reply

Ken Adams
Two points I would take issue with in your series.

“I'm always surprised that so many English people don't seem to understand that there always were separate budgets for lots of government expenditure pertaining to Scotland long before devolution.”

I rather think this is a bit of a red herring: It is not that we do not understand this point, but as we were one family it was not an issue, the partial political separation brought about by devolution, and the call for independence has highlighted the differences in the budgets.

The same might be true if Cornwall was calling for independence; I am not the slightest bit interested in how much Cornwall costs or contributes to the central purse because we are all one family.

Second point:
“Wales and Northern Ireland will have a lot more to worry about than will Scotland if England decides to go it alone.”

England! Is not in the position to, as you say “to go it alone”, it is Scotland that is moving towards that goal.

In fact it is quite funny for me as an Englishman, to have had a Scottish stuffed UK cabinet for the past ten years with the two last UK Prime Ministers both being Scottish; to then find after all it is the English who are to blame for the break up of the UK.

The reality is officially there is no England; remember the division of England into nine separate political regions. The English do not have a voice in the proceedings; the English did not have a voice in the devolution process.

It was a Scottish UK Cabinet that allowed only the Scots to have a voice in the break up of our country, it will only be the Scots who will be allowed a referendum on independence.

It is the Scots in charge of the UK parliament that are opposing the call for Scottish independence, it is Gorgon Brown who is wrapping himself in the British Flag.

In this debate the English are standing on the sidelines, our only position in this debate seems to be to take the blame.
5 November 2007, 07:32:17 GMT