Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland spending much more on public services than they collect in tax

Robert Henderson

The Office for National Statistics (ONS)  has produced  its first regional analysis of UK  public spending  and tax collected. The ONS describes the statistics as experimental and their  methodology can be found here at the beginning of the analysis. Hence, it should be treated with caution.  However, the figures given  by the ONS for Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland are probably broadly correct because the ONS  also give figures for English regions which vary widely and seem to correspond to the economic strength of each region. If the English region figures are broadly correct then so should be those for Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland as they are computed on the same basis.

The ONS  data  shows  public spending of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland considerably exceeds  the tax collected those countries.

Per capita their overspending is as follows in the latest year calculated (2015/16)

Scotland    £2,824

Wales         £4,545

N. Ireland £5,437

The total overspend in each country  calculated  by multiplying the per capita sum by the population of each of the three countries  gives these figures:

Scotland £2,824 x 5,373,000 (population)   = £15,173,352,000

Wales  £4,545 x 3,099,100 (population)       = £14,085,409,500

N. Ireland £5,437 x 1,851,600 (population) = £10,067,149,200

Total of public service spending by Scotland, Wales and N Ireland  over and above the money collected in those countries is £39,325, 910,700

England spent only  £599 per capita more than it collects in tax  in 2015/16.

The population of England is 54,786,300

The excess  of spending over revenue in England is s £599 x 54,786,300 = £32,816,993,000

Total excess of UK spending  over revenue is £39,325,910,600 + £32,816,993,000 = £72,140,190,600

England has 86% of the UK population and 44% of the excess of spending over revenue

Scotland, Wales and N Ireland have 14% if the UK population and 54% of the excess of spending over revenue.

The population estimates for  England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are taken from the  Office for National Statistics

The Treasury payments to each Home Country

The greater overspending per capita in Scotland, Wales and Northern  Ireland than in England  is not simply a matter of  the same amounts per capita being disbursed by the UK Treasury to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  running up a larger deficit in their public spending than England because they are poorer than England and consequently generate less tax.  That is part of it but it is also a consequence of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland getting far more generous per capita payments, viz:

In 2015/16, public spending per head in the UK as a whole was £9,076. In England, it was £8,816 (3% below the UK average).  This compares with:

Scotland: £10,536 (16% above the UK average)  -and  thus £1,720 higher than   England

Wales: £9,996 (10% above the UK average)  -and thus £1,180 higher than England

Northern Ireland £10,983 (21% above the UK average)  – and thus £2, 167higher than England

The total difference between the  Treasury disbursement  to England and that to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  can be calculated by multiplying by their populations  the  difference in the per capita  money Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive  compared to England, viz:

Scotland £1720  x 5,373,000 (population)   =  £9,241,560,000

Wales  £1180 x 3,099,100 (population)       =  £3, 656,938,000

N. Ireland £2167 x 1,851,600 (population) = £4,012,417,200

Therefore   for the year 2015/16 the total  Treasury payments to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  over and above that paid to England was  £16,910,915,200. If the Treasury disbursements to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  had been  reduced to the  same per capita amount as was  spent in  England  nearly £17 billion would have been knocked off  the UK government’s spending in 2015/16.

The money Scotland, Wales and  Northern Ireland receive and spend over and above that received and spent in England is partly funded by the English taxpayer directly or adds to the UK national debt which is serviced in large part by the English taxpayer. It is also true that if Scotland,  Wales and Northern Ireland  were independent countries they would neither be able to sustain anything like their current levels of funding for public services nor borrow anything like as cheaply as the UK government can (or be able to borrow at any price) to finance a large  deficit .

This entry was posted in Devolution, Economics, Nationhood. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland spending much more on public services than they collect in tax

  1. j says:

    If you apply the same accounting trick to any country richer than England, all 26 of them, regionalising them would bring them bif deficits. That’s what Scotland endures as a region of England in a practical sense. Or you’d be the first to suggest you pay us back for the surpluses we gave to shithole UK?

  2. Colin Ray says:

    Since the ‘Asymmetric Devolution’ settlement I campaigned for England to be given the same rights as those areas called Nations, and have an English Parliament. (There is no such thing as an English nation and England is nothing more than a collection of Regions).

    One of the reasons England has been refused democracy and not allowed to have its own representative body to give voice to English concerns and aspirations was that England was far too big in terms of geography, population and comparative wealth. This is probably true but is a very flimsy excuse to prevent an entire people having its own voice and representation, while giving those same things to the smaller components of what is now the Dis-United Kingdom. Clearly, it is beyond the wit and the will of the British Unionists to devise a federal system that could be of benefit to all parts of the UK, while simultaneously giving a degree of equality and equal treatment.

    Those statistics, above, have only reinforced my growing conviction that if England is too big to be given an equal degree of democratic representation for itself, and by itself then it is too big to be in what is euphemistically called a United Kingdom within which the English derive very little benefit and all of the costs. Perhaps it is time we English began to seriously consider an independence movement of our own to free ourselves of the British ruling over our lives and deciding our destiny.

    • says:

      Scottish devolution certainly should be abolished. There is a new party that advocates such a stance: As the Welsh are more different from the rest of the United Kingdom and have a stronger cultural identity than Scotland has (ie a distinct and fairly widely-spoken language of their own) then, perhaps, Welsh devolution can stay. Northern Ireland is the smallest component part of the UK and is over the water so they have the greatest case for devolution.

      I agree though that the UK is a big mess constitutionally-speaking but hasn’t that always been the case? The British constitution has NEVER been finely balanced.

      I would advocate scrapping devolution (apart from in NI though the ideal would involve the Province as well) and either all the powers returning to the centre so that we could have a proper unitary state as we had before or a carefully-designed REGIONAL devolution instead. The mistake was giving Scotland a proper parliament for the WHOLE of Scotland rather than devolving power per se.

      One thing I will say about the Scottish Parliament is that it does have a reasonably fair electoral system (unlike the House of Commons) and I would say if it is to be shut-down then part of the price for doing that would be to reform the House of Commons so that it had a similar Additional Member System (AMS) Proportional Representation voting system.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s