Scottish Independence: No vote could be the "worst possible outcome for the North East", experts warn

A pledge to continue using the Barnett Formula to calculate public spending could squeeze the North East, experts have claimed

Lynne Cameron/PA Wire Yes supporters in Maryhill, Glasgow, as voters go to the polls in the Scottish Referendum
Yes supporters in Maryhill, Glasgow, as voters go to the polls in the Scottish Referendum

A No vote from Scotland in the independence referendum could be the “worst possible outcome for the North East”, experts have claimed.

The alarm was raised in the wake of the party leaders’ joint pledge to continue using the Barnett Formula in the event of a No.

The formula is used to calculate how much public funding each country in the Union receives. Figures show Scotland spends 16% more per head on income development than the North East under the formula.

The country also receives almost £2,000 more public spending per head than England.

Established in the 1970s by former Labour treasurer Lord Barnett, the formula has long been a concern for North Eastern politicians.

And politics Professor Keith Shaw, from Northumbria University, said a No vote could wipe reform of the formula clean off the political agenda.

As a result, Scotland would continue to receive more funding while also gaining greater political powers, leaving the North East squeezed by the system.

Prof Shaw said: “A No vote could mean the worst possible outcome for the North East.

“People might think they will get the worst of both worlds. There will be considerable uncertainty. A Yes vote may be a less complicated outcome.”

Alistair Clark, a senior lecturer in politics at Newcastle University, agreed. The professor said: “People in the North East are going to feel squeezed. They will be looking northwards and asking if the Scots can have it, then why can’t we?

“The North East is probably under-represented, particularly when it’s looking north. As a consequence, it’s very difficult to feel like you’re getting the best of the public services.”

Doubt was also raised by The Tax Payers’ Alliance. Director John O’Connell told The Journal: “The figures show that public spending per person in Scotland and England is almost £2,000 different. That allows Scotland to offer things that might not be available in England, such as free prescriptions.

“People in the North East will see these freebies across the border and know that it mainly comes out of their pockets.”

But Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said: “There have been problems for the North East in the past caused by adherence to the Barnett Formula, which has given a disproportionate amount of public funding to Scotland.

“The North East, and all the other regions of the United Kingdom, will need to be given careful consideration if the Barnett Formula arrangements for Scotland continue.”

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