"I’m afraid I haven’t got a great deal of time for the Scottish National Party … they’re complaining and pigeon themselves against the English and taking more money from English taxpayers than English taxpayers get for themselves … " – former Labour minister Jack Straw on Sky News, 1 Feb 2022

READ MORE: Former Labour minister in outrageous anti-SNP rant during Sky News interview


Jack Straw ignores the fact that public spending in London is bigger than in Scotland – or anywhere else in the UK.


Essex-born Straw was home secretary and then foreign secretary under Tony Blair. His real Christian name is John, but he took to calling himself Jack as a reference to one of the leaders of the English Peasants’ Revolt. Straw abandoned his youthful radicalism at Leeds University (where he was close to the Communist Party) for an orthodox political career in the Labour Party. In 2000, as home secretary, he allowed former Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet to leave Britain despite outstanding international arrest warrants. Straw was an ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq and has been accused repeatedly of complicity in the kidnapping and rendition of opponents of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In 2015, he was caught in a “cash for access” sting by Channel 4 News.


Following Ian Blackford’s expulsion from the House of Commons, for calling Boris Johnson a liar, Straw accused the SNP Westminster leader of grandstanding, in an interview on Sky News. Rather than concentrate on Johnson’s serial untruths, Straw chose to launch a major attack on the SNP, saying: “I’m afraid I haven’t got a great deal of time for the Scottish National Party, Nationalist Party. They are all things to all people …” He went on: “They take more money from English taxpayers than English taxpayers get for themselves” and predicted “SNP support will twist and fall."


According to the latest House of Commons Library data (published December 2021) Scotland receives an estimated £14,842 per person in public funding, including capital investment. But this is actually less than the spending per head in London, which is £15,490. In fact, the spend per head in London is the highest in the UK and some 15% above the UK average. By Straw’s logic, the entire UK populace subsidises the British capital.

The Scottish spend per head is also less than Northern Ireland (£15,357) though Straw made no comments about the Irish exploiting English taxpayers. Welsh public spending is £14,222 which is also above the English total of £13,414. Again, Straw made no reference to Wales, which has a Labour administration.

Note that these figures cover so-called identifiable expenditure – that is cash that is actually spent in a specific region. Other public expenditure (eg defence) is deemed to be of benefit to the whole UK equally. However, defence spending does have a geographical location. For instance, a military base has an economic impact on its local area. Most UK defence installations are in southern England, which adds to the geographical mismatch of funding in the UK – something masked by the way the data is presented.

Besides, these figures do not mean that English taxpayers “subsidise” Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh citizens in any direct sense. For a start, public spending is funded from borrowing as well as taxes. Net borrowing in 2021 was £327.6bn. The interest on UK Government debt is paid by all UK taxpayers, current and future ones, from all the four UK nations.


Scotland’s allocation of public funds is determined partly by taxes set by the Holyrood Parliament, partly by a Treasury allocation determined by the UK Parliament and Treasury, and partly by the UK Government’s own direct spending north of the Border. It is obvious therefore that the spending received by Scotland is determined largely by Westminster, not by the SNP.

The allocation of spending between the UK is determined by the Barnett Formula, introduced by Labour in 1978. Under this rule (and later variations) any spending change in England is mirrored by a similar change in the other nations proportionate to population. In other words, Barnett specifically precludes any exceptional advantages for Scotland, contrary to Straw’s claims. However, the UK Treasury arbitrarily excludes certain expenditures in England from having Barnett consequentials for the other nations, eg funding for HS2.

So what causes the different levels of public spending per head in the UK nations and regions? The answer is that each nation and region has different social and economic needs. Scotland, for instance, with one-third of the UK landmass, has greater transport and communications spending needs than more compact areas.

Under the devolution settlement, there have been changes to how Scotland is funded. These have involved transferring to Holyrood greater responsibility for raising its own funding. For instance, the Scottish Government now has the power to set rates and bands of income tax. Straw does not seem to have noticed these changes. Note also that Straw was a Cabinet minister continuously from 1997 to 2010. He is not known to have tried to amend the Barnett Formula during his time in office.


Historically, Scotland has been a net contributor to UK finances overall. In the pre-oil period, Scottish industry paid a larger than population share in business taxes. With the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas, Scotland was again a net contributor. In 2013, Professor Brian Ashcroft of the University of Strathclyde (a noted Unionist) found that for the period since 1980, Scotland paid in more to the UK per head than it got back (subtracting interest payments on the National Debt which an independent Scotland would not have paid).


The National: National Fact Check False

Zero for Jack Straw.