Scots public spending £1,700 higher than UK average

Public spending levels in Scotland are almost £1,700 higher per head than the UK average, official figures have shown.

The Union Flag and Saltire of Scotland fly outside the Scottish Parliament
The Union Flag and Saltire of Scotland fly outside the Scottish Parliament

Pro-union parties say it shows “tremendous benefits” of being part of the UK, although the SNP insists that independence would allow Scotland to protect businesses and jobs in the same way as other countries around the world.

Data on public spending levels in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the nine English regions was released by the Treasury on Wednesday, covering the 2019/20 year.

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They showed spending per head was £11,566 in Scotland, with the UK average being £9,895.

For Northern Ireland, the figure was £11,987 and for Wales it was £10,929.

The Treasury's country and regional analysis report (CRA) did not capture the additional spending in response to the coronavirus outbreak, as this fell almost entirely in the following financial year.

It said the 2021 CRA will include this data.

Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: "It is clear that everyone across Scotland benefits tremendously from being supported by the strength of the UK Treasury.

"The SNP Government should warmly welcome that public spending is significantly higher in Scotland than across the rest of the UK."

Discussing the UK Government's Covid-19 support this year, he added: "At every turn during the pandemic, [Chancellor] Rishi Sunak has stepped up and delivered for people and businesses in Scotland.

"That support now totals an astonishing £8.2 billion.

"That is the funding the SNP must get out the door urgently to support jobs and livelihoods that are at risk with further restrictions."

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said Wednesday's figures show a "union dividend" of almost £2,000 for every person in Scotland, as average revenue figures are around £300 lower per person in the country.

Mr Jack said: "During the pandemic we have seen the strength of the union and support from the UK Government provide a lifeline for many Scottish people and businesses.

"We are taking action to ensure the Scottish economy recovers from these difficult times."

Responding to the claims, SNP MSP Tom Arthur, who sits on Holyrood's finance and constitution committee, said Scotland needs the "financial powers of a normal independent country".

He said: "As an independent country, we will be able to protect businesses and jobs in the same way as other countries large and small around the world, instead of having to fight the economic hit of this pandemic with one hand tied behind our back.

"It was only due to SNP pressure that the Tories agreed to extend furlough provision to the whole of the UK after initially giving preferential treatment to firms in England only.

"That makes a mockery of Tory claims the UK is a partnership of equals, which was confirmed by Boris Johnson's attack on devolution this week when he claimed the creation of the Scottish Parliament was a worse mistake than the Iraq war.

"Scotland needs the financial powers of a normal independent country - something which will become even more urgent once the Tories plough ahead with a no-deal or bad-deal Brexit at the end of this year."

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