Unformatted text preview: sh Office, 1997, para 7.24). There is no guidance on what would constitute ‘excessive’ growth.
Much less attention is paid to differences in valuation practices and levels.
It is part of the received political mythology that the poll tax was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s revenge upon Scotland for its lack of enthusiasm
for the policies of her Government, a view often now repeated by those sympathetic to her programme. In fact, the poll tax emerged as a Scottish
proposal in response to a bitterly contested rating revaluation in 1985, and this was the reason why implementation took place in Scotland in 198990, one year ahead of England. This episode in GB fiscal history (the poll tax was never implemented in Northern Ireland) has been described as
‘fiscal anarchy’ (Besley et al., 1997).
Another aspect of this debate is the proposal that the Scottish Parliament would take all revenues generated in Scotland and then pay the UK
Government for the services it provided. Such a system in principle operated in Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1972, but in practice it quickly
degraded and the payment became negative (Gibson, 1996). A practical issue is that such an arrangement would generate much controversy about
non-devolved matters, with the Scottish Parliament being likely to object to certain components of such UK expenditure, definitely complaining about
the geographical distribution of defence bases and perhaps threatening to charge rent for the location of the UK’s nuclear capability in the Clyde
estuary. Commission on Fiscal Imbalance 4.3. Policy Variation and Policy Leadership
Leaving aside the issue of the relationship between expenditure and needs, the evidence indicates that per capita
expenditure on devolved services is higher in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than it is in England. Especially
since the implementation of Barnett in 1981-82, the territorial offices had considerable scope to vary the composition of
their expenditure from that in England, though the fact that the respective Secretaries of State were members of the UK
Cabinet of a Conservative Government, with a well-defined policy agenda, limited how much deviation might be
expected. During this period, the Secretary of State’s expenditure-switching power within the block seems to have been
used more for tactical public expenditure management than for policy variation. Nevertheless, even through the periods
when the 1979-97 Conservative Government regarded reducing public expenditure as a priority, successive territorial
Secretaries of State and their civil servants defended territorial programmes.
Under the devolved system, policy divergence seems more likely, as the factors which generated alignment are now
much weaker. Midwinter (1997) has stressed that one of the reasons why the Treasury has not challenged the Barnett
system is that any reductions of expenditure secured in the territories would spread very thinly over the much larger
England. Moreover, the system allowed the Treasury to exercise control over the mai...
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