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Unformatted text preview: ulations imply that each territory should have the same percentage increase, irrespective of the present expenditure relatives and of
‘ We have a formula that, every time a big headline increase is announced by the Chancellor in England, it can’t actually be repeated here because
our Barnett consequences don’t give us enough. There are serious difficulties there. For every pound extra that has been announced for education,
per school child in England, it’s only 76p per pupil here’ (Mark Durkan MLA, Minister for Finance in the Northern Ireland Executive, quoted in the
Belfast Telegraph on 14 January 2001).
Newspaper comment suggests that there is considerable resentment at the prominence in the UK Labour Cabinet of MPs representing Scottish
constituencies: out of 23, five are Scottish MPs, and three others (one a member of the House of Lords, two representing English constituencies)
were born in Scotland. An important factor behind this prominence was that Labour was much more successful in Scotland in 1983 and 1987 at
retaining its seats. One of the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 is that, with effect from the General Election to be held not later than 2006, the
number of Scottish MPs will be cut from the present level of 72 to a number based on the same population quota as applies in England. Gay (1997)
calculated that a strict pro rata basis would give, out of 659 MPs, England 549 (presently 529), Scotland 59 (72), Wales 33 (40) (where there are no
proposals for reduction), and Northern Ireland 18 (18). 274 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance 4.4. Absence of Institutional Machinery
UK government has been very top-down, with a hierarchical relationship between central government and local
authorities, even before the 1980s saw a removal of functions, the imposition of compulsory tendering, and the
diminution and restriction of revenue raising. Even within the territories, with their separate territorial administration,
political authority came through the Secretary of State from the Prime Minister and the UK Cabinet.
On a constitutional level, devolution does not necessarily change this, because the Scottish Parliament was established
by Westminster legislation, which any future government can repeal, and the funding basis is only contained in the
devolution White Papers (Scottish Office, 1997, Welsh Office, 1997) and non-statutory Treasury guidance (Treasury,
1999, 2000a). There can be no such thing as a constitutional assignment of powers. Nevertheless, the political reality is
quite different. Devolution ‘all around’ fundamentally alters the politics; between them, the three territories elect a
considerable proportion of the UK Parliament. Withdrawing devolved powers is unlikely to be attempted by a UK
Government unless it enjoyed significant support for this policy in that territory. Although the UK Government can
exercise the power to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is far less likely that this could be done in the case of
Scotland and Wales. There are now credible alternative pol...
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