I had a few comments that the blog on meme-busting Wings and Infrastructure Spending was too long. At ~2000 words, it’s hard to argue but I think that it needs to be comprehensive to fully expose the errors and leave no room for argument.
This, though, will be the abbreviated version, intended for quicker consumption and, if anyone wants to look at the full detail of evidence and sources behind each rebuttal, then they can click here and read the full blog for themselves.
The blog centres on this Pooling and Sharing post on pro-independence site which claims that Scotland pays an unfair share of UK Government spending through the National Infrastructure Project which concentrates on investment in London such as Crossrail, Thames crossings and HS2. It had 5 central arguments:
- There is something called the National Infrastructure Plan
- NIP spending does not incur Barnett consequentials
- Scotland pays £12bn of the UK’s contribution to NIP
- There is only one NIP project in Scotland
- Scotland pays £11bn for projects we don’t benefit from
Yes, there is something called the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) through which the UK Government manages capital investment in infrastructure across the UK.
Contrary to Wings’ claim, though, the majority of spending in NIP does incur Barnett consequentials, meaning that, crudely speaking, Scotland’s block grant gets 10% of the value of that project. There are a few exceptions to this, notably the Olympics and HS2, where spending is deemed to “benefit the whole of the UK”. The devolved governments are free to challenge this, though, as was done with the Olympics and as the Welsh Government are currently doing with HS2.
Wings assumes that Scotland contributes a population share of the total NIP spend, regardless of where that spend takes place – thereby achieving the figure of £12bn which amounts to around £2bn a year. Spending is not assigned to Scotland in this manner but, for the most part, assigned to the region or country which benefits from the spending. Anything which cannot be assigned to a particular region is designated as “non-identifiable” spending and a share assigned to Scotland on various principles – including in some cases a population share.
For 2012-13 (the last figures I could find), Scotland paid £23m in “non-identifiable” transport costs. ~90% of public spending in NIP is assigned to transport. So rather than ~90% of that ~£2bn a year which Wings claims we pay, it’s £23m. So no, we’re not out a raft of money for investment in England and projects that don’t benefit Scotland.
Wings also insinuates that there’s only one NIP project in Scotland when a closer inspection of the report reveals a number of other projects including a 220km electricity transmission line from Beauly to Denny and a raft of windfarms. The report also makes it clear that infrastructure investment in devolved scopes, where the majority of investment takes place, is the responsibility of the devolved governments – aided by the Barnett consequentials incurred by NIP spending in England, of course.
So, in summary…
I hope that’s clear 🙂