Paul Nuttall, the new leader of Ukip, knows how to outperform Nigel Farage in at least one respect. Where Farage made himself famously unpopular in Scotland, Nuttall is on course to make Ukip just about non-existent north of the Border.
Never one to let a few facts get in the way of a good insult, he has denounced the Scots as scroungers taking from England. It was widely reported that he wants First Minister Nicola Sturgeon thrown in front of a hunt horse for her opposition to fox hunting and he wants to ban Scottish MPs from the House of Commons (along with those from Wales and Northern Ireland).
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) November 16, 2016
He wants to scrap the Barnet formula which he blames for giving Scotland more in per capita spending than it gives the English. And he claims the English pay for free hospital car parking in Scotland along with free prescriptions and free university education.
During a recent Question Time on BBC television he went into Scottophobic overdrive with an anti-SNP rant in which he said Sturgeon and Alex Salmond had only one policy – to take from England. To emphasise his point he repeated the word “take” six times.
Mr Nuttall complained: “We never get anything back. You know what they’re taking? They’re taking your tax. People in Scotland get an extra £1,600 more than people in England. You know what that taxation pays for up there? It pays for not having tuition fees, while down here we charge students £9,000.
“They have free hospital parking. Down here we pay. They have free prescriptions – down here we pay. When devolution happened they got themselves a parliament. The English got nothing.”
Not exactly vote-winning rhetoric in Scotland, you might think. The Scottish National Party, of course, love it. When a party leader south of the Border swears to make his main policy putting England first, Scottish nationalists simply ask for more.
If England wants free hospital parking or university education Westminster is free to provide it – just like Scotland.
A few facts might help Nuttall. The Scots do indeed pay for hospital parking, tuition fees and prescriptions. They just pay indirectly, through taxation. The money comes from the block grant from Westminster. The Scottish government can spend its budget as it chooses. It merely prioritises spending in a way that Westminster, with its huge majority of English MPs, does not. If England wants free hospital parking or university education Westminster is free to provide it – just like Scotland.
As for Barnet, well, that formula is outdated and undeniably biased in favour of Scotland – but for good historical reasons. It is based on per capita sharing of UK resources. If it was based solely on need, then Scotland’s share would probably be increased even more.
And the SNP might point out that it is a system approved by Westminster’s huge English majority year after year. If they don’t want it to continue, those same English MPs are free to change it.
The SNP will point out that any advantage Scotland has in UK public spending is dwarfed by four decades of billions in oil revenues flowing from Scottish territory to the Treasury – with nothing in return by way of an oil fund or “rainy day” reward.
Nuttall accuses the SNP of voting on English matters when English MPs cannot vote on devolved Scottish issues. This is simply untrue. SNP MPs have operated a self-denying ordinance in recent times where they do not vote on English-only affairs unless – important caveat – they impinge on the Scottish interest.
While Scotland’s main parties marvel at the heroic Little England populism of Paul Nuttall they have one regret. Ukip is already so unpopular in Scotland that it has almost nothing to lose. In all Scotland there is no Ukip councillor. By a whisker, and thanks to proportional representation, Ukip managed to win just one seat in the European Parliament. And that’s Ukip’s lot in Scotland.
For good measure, Nuttall wants all non-English MPs expelled and the Commons turned into an English parliament. Which is exactly the sort of thing the SNP contingent would love – providing they were never allowed back, of course.
By Murray Ritchie
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