|Written by Chris Young|
The way Scotland raises money and pays for public services was thrust into the spotlight once again this week with the publication of the Scottish Government’s latest Government Revenue and Expenditure Scotland (GERS) figures.
While the numbers show that Scots pay £400 more per head in tax (when money generated from oil is included) they also show that the country receives a whopping £1,200 more in public spending and borrow £800 more than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, a statistic pro-Union parties have been quick to pounce on.
Perhaps worryingly for SNP strategists – who placed massive store on oil revenues sustaining an independent Scotland during the recent referendum – the figures don’t take into account the fall in oil prices that took hold towards the end of last year, suggesting that next year’s figures may paint an all-together more austere picture.
For Nicola Sturgeon, it should make the case for full fiscal devolution – or “devo max” a harder proposition to sell to the electorate, but by all accounts, it is a scenario that remains firmly on the table.
With talk of coalitions and backroom deals between Labour and the SNP rife in the corridors of power this week, David Cameron took much comfort in goading Ed Miliband on the perils of a Labour-SNP pact at Wednesday’s PMQs.
Much to the annoyance of Labour backbenchers who want Mr Miliband to publically rule out a deal with the Nationalists, the Prime Minister seemed firmly on the front foot as he accused the Labour leader of being firmly in the pocket (literally, if the party’s new campaign poster is to be believed) of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
It was almost too much for the baying pack of Tory MPs, who will no doubt view the election of SNP MPs as a chance to offset Labour gains elsewhere in the UK, throwing their own party a much needed lifeline.
Latest Scottish polls (You Gov/Times): SNP 46%, Labour 27%, Conservative 18%, Lib Dem 4%, Others 5%
By Chris Young, 3x1 Public Relations, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Scotland