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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Scottish Labour score an own goal on behalf of their Welsh colleagues

One of the problems of devolution is that you are not in control of your own destiny on a wide range of issues. That is particularly the case in Wales where our legislative powers are limited and we are still arguing about funding formulas and tax.

In these circumstances it is wise to temper one's critcism of the UK Government, just in case one's own party should take a similar stance at a UK level and completely undermine one's position.

With a few exceptions, Welsh Labour have not taken this advice. They have been quite partisan on reforming the Barnett formula, despite failing to do so themselves when in Government.

Meanwhile the UK Labour Party have been remarkably quiet, failing to commit themselves to back the Welsh Party's policy position. That has not stopped the Scottish Labour Party moving to undermine Carwyn Jones and his Government.

As John Osmond on the IWA blog reports the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has just announced that she wants to keep the Barnett formula as the funding mechanism for public services in Scotland:

It has been noticeable that although Labour in Wales are committed to replacing the Barnett formula with a needs-based assessment, no such commitment has come from the top of the Labour Party – Ed Balls or Ed Miliband. One reason Wales is disadvantaged is that, over time, funding increases as a result of the formula tend to bring Welsh spending into line with the average across the UK – the so-called Barnett squeeze. This has not happened in recent years because funding has either been cut or stood still. The only commitment on Barnett has been to revisit the formula in the event of higher future spending re-introducing the squeeze.

Because Scottish Labour have dug their heels in on this issue Carwyn Jones and his government have been left out on a limb. In truth it is a situation that every other UK party finds itself in as well, this means though that Labour can no longer pretend they are different.

Reforming the Barnett formula has effectively been taken off the table for some time. If Wales wants fair funding now then we may be left only with political fixes of the kind that gave Scotland their fiscal advantage in the first place.

We might have to find a way to get more money to Cardiff Bay without taking it off the Scots because that is the only way we will be able to get it through Westminster, where Scottish politicians and the Scottish political situation hold all the cards.

The manifestos of all the UK political parties will make for very interesting reading in a year's time.
Mr Carmichael did not help at Scottish Questions this morning. He said in so many words that Scotland did well out of Barnett, and the formula would stay.

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