24 October 2008
By David Scott
The system of distributing funding across the UK needs to change, the commission examining the powers of the Scottish Parliament heard.
Its chair, Sir Kenneth Calman, said a change was needed to the Barnett Formula, the system that calculates the share of public funding for the devolved areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to the evidence received by the commission.
'The issue of changing [the formula], in whatever way I don't know, is clearly one of the big tasks,' he said.
The Barnett Formula, which gives Scotland a higher share of spending per head than south of the border, has come in for criticism, particularly from taxpayers in England who claim it gives Scotland an unfair spending advantage.
Calman said judgements on whether the Barnett Formula was fair to English taxpayers depended on which part of England was being considered. He added: 'It's important you don't think of England as a single place – you can break down the regions quite easily. If you look at London, for example, you would see that it does pretty well.'
The Calman commission was set up by the Scottish Parliament after the idea was backed by the Unionist parties in Scotland – Labour, the Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. It is not supported by the Scottish National Party government, which favours independence – an option that is ruled out in the commission's remit.