Monday, 25 April 2011

Northern British

I've struggled for a while to understand devolution, it's purpose, it's eventual aim. In one of my first blogs (I vote for the Romans) I displayed an affinity with a concept of belonging to a bigger geopolitical entity. Whilst I appreciate the need for more local government to represent the mood of the local community by such acts as raising taxes locally and distributing the benefit locally, I also understand the benefits of scale afforded a larger community for such things as diplomacy, military, finance, police, transport etc. I specifically avoided writing "Nation" here, since within our understanding of this word, nation; we confuse such concepts as culture, race, politics, religion and Land.

In my blog (An Ode to Joy) I explored my poor knowledge of devolution in the UK, eventually returning to the theme of a pan European Nation. A pan European nation is only a pipe dream when we don't have a single united nation occupying the British Isles.  Recently I have been more irked when I see the media referring to Scotland or Wales in terms of them being nation states. This becomes even more irritating in any debate over public spending as both of the devolved parliaments seem to have domain over large centrally generated budgets and are spending these budgets in dramatically different ways to the majority contingent of the UK.  For example, Scottish University students (what does this mean?) are not paying tuition fees. How does this work? The British Tax payers pay tax to the British government in Westminster. Westminster diverts a portion of this to pay for public services in Scotland (the Scottish Consolidated Fund). Scotland's devolved parliament manage to allocate some to pay for a few of Britain's university students to go to university. Which university? Scottish universities? What about other British universities or the Rest-of-the-World universities? Why decide to just send Scottish students to Scottish universities?

Surely this raises the question of fairness? at what cost are Holyrood making this investment? What are residents of Northern Britain going without so their young folk can go to a university in Northern Britain paid for by the British State? Southern British don't have this option. But aren't we all British tax payers, although the Scottish (Northern British) devolved parliament were given the power (by the British parliament in Westminster) to raise or lower their tax rate, they have not done so. Therefore, if this is a fair distribution of money raised through taxation then something must have to give in that region that is afforded the benefit. Presumably the per capita costs of local government are the same? I've read some reports that suggest it is lower in Northern Britain and others that say its much higher but I have not found the facts yet.

The Scottish (Northern British) devolved parliament website refers often to the "Scottish People" and the "People of Scotland". Assuming that in the modern era these are the same thing. The tribe of the Scotts didn't reach Northern Britain until c. 600 AD.   So what defines a person as Scottish? Bloodlines? Surnames? Accent? Location of birth? Well no, none of these. 

Two things define you as Scottish on the website of the Scottish Parliament. (1) You reside (pay tax) in the northern parts of our archipelago and (2) You are British Citizen.   So, Scottish = Northern British.

Given this then, could I rent a house in a Northern British city say Glasgow, pay local tax and then be eligible to have my children's university fees paid by the state? £9,000 x2 kids x4 years = £72,000 actually wouldn't I be better investing in a property there?


  1. Does this mean I can stop calling myself half-Scottish since I live south of the North British border...?

  2. Well Dootsy MacDoo that's an interesting question. Genetically, you may 100% thoroughbred Scott, descended in a direct lineage from King Duncan I, but if you lived in Berwick-upon-Tweed you'd not be Scottish according to the Scottish Parliament. So you are 0% Scottish and 100% British - and would have to pay for your own kid's further education!

  3. Paradoxically, if your name was Edward Longshank, and you were educated at Eaton and could trace your lineage in a direct line to Edward I, Hammer of the Scotts and you lived on the North bank of the Tweed, you'd be 100% Scottish and the Scottish parliament would be delighted to fund your children's further education using British tax payers money. In fact the British MPs from the Scottish wards, who voted in the British parliament to secure a victory for university tuition fees in England and Wales would be delighted.

  4. ok, ok, I'm ranting sorry ;-)