UK

Tory leadership: Boris Johnson backtracks over Scottish funding

Boris Johnson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boris Johnson has long criticised the Barnett formula

Boris Johnson’s leadership team have promised “no change” to how Scottish government funding is calculated if he becomes prime minister.

Jeremy Hunt had already pledged to “maintain” what’s known as the Barnett formula, and had challenged his rival to match his commitment.

Mr Johnson has long criticised the formula.

At one point he claimed it amounted to a multi-billion pound “present” from English taxpayers to Scotland.

One Hunt supporter, John Lamont MP, welcomed what he said appeared to be a “U-turn” by Mr Johnson.

Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson are competing against each other to become the next Conservative leader.

The Barnett formula is used to share funds across the UK with allocations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland linked to their populations and any changes in spending in areas such as health and education in England.

It’s controversial because levels of public spending per head are higher in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales than they are in England.

Mr Johnson, a former London mayor, has been a persistent critic. In 2014, he said the then prime minister, David Cameron, had made a “slightly reckless promise” to retain it.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jeremy Hunt had challenged Mr Johnson to match his commitment

He had previously described the system as being of “amazing political antiquity” and producing “inequitable outcomes”.

The SNP were among those expecting Boris Johnson to review funding arrangements for the devolved governments if he became prime minister.

MSP Tom Arthur said: “With the hard right-wing of the Tory party threatening to axe the Barnett formula and slaughter Scotland’s public services it’s time to take our future into our own hands.”

But Boris Johnson’s campaign has indicated that the system will stay the same if he replaces Theresa May in Number 10.

Funding arragements

A campaign source said: “There’ll be no change to the Barnett formula if Boris wins the leadership of the Conservative and Unionist Party and becomes prime minister.

“For the SNP to suggest otherwise shows a hitherto unseen level of desperation and underlines just how much they would fear a Conservative and Unionist Party led by Boris.”

The Hunt campaign had also questioned Mr Johnson’s commitment to existing funding arrangements.

Conservative MP John Lamont MP, who is a prominent supporter of Mr Hunt, said: “I’m pleased that despite what Mr Johnson has said in the past about reviewing the special funding arrangements for Scotland, he has now apparently u-turned on this policy.

“Jeremy Hunt has always been clear that he supports the continuation of the Barnett formula, no if, buts or U-turns.”

Compare the candidates’ policies

Select a topic and a candidate to find out more

BREXIT

– Would leave the EU with no deal, but it’s not his preferred option. – Wants changes to the Irish backstop and proposes sending a new negotiating team to Brussels. – Wants to make changes to the withdrawal agreement and thinks it’s possible to get them done by 31 October, but has not ruled out an extension.

– Has pledged to get the UK out of the EU on 31 October, the deadline for Brexit set by the EU, but thinks the chances of a no-deal Brexit happening are a “million to one”. – Would like to leave on the basis of a new withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU, with the backstop removed and replaced with “alternative arrangements”. – If this is not possible, he would ask the EU to agree to a “standstill period” during which the UK could negotiate a free trade deal with the bloc. – Failing this, the UK must be prepared to leave on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms if required, and the country would “get ready for that outcome”. – Says he would demonstrate “creative ambiguity” over when the UK will pay the £39bn “divorce” payment it is due to give the EU as part of the negotiated deal. He has also said the money should be retained until there is “greater clarity about the way forward”.

IMMIGRATION

– Calls for flexibility on immigration, saying skilled workers should be prioritised. – Wants to review policies of stopping migrants with less than £30,000 coming to the UK to work. – Would scrap the Conservative target of reducing net annual immigration to below 100,000 a year, he told the Daily Mail.

– Promises to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system, considering factors including whether an immigrant has a firm job offer before arrival and their ability to speak English. – Opposes the net migration target of under 100,000 per year. – Says he is “open to talent, open to immigration” but it “should be controlled”. – Would block the ability to claim benefits immediately when someone arrives in the UK.

TAX

– As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into “the next Silicon Valley… a hub of innovation”. – Pledges to slash business taxes to the lowest in Europe to attract firms to Britain after Brexit and reduce corporation tax to 12.5%. – Wants to increase the threshold at which workers pay National Insurance to at least £12,000 a year.

– Pledges to cut income tax for people earning more than £50,000 by raising the 40% tax threshold to £80,000. – Plans to pay for the reported £9.6bn annual cost of the cut in part from a pot set aside by the Treasury for a possible no-deal Brexit, and in part by increasing employee National Insurance payments. – However he says his tax proposals will begin by “lifting thresholds for those on lowest pay”.

SPENDING

– Wants to boost defence spending by £15bn over the next five years. – Promises to build 1.5m new homes for young people over the next 10 years.

– Pledges to “find the money” to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers over an as-yet unspecified period. – Promises to speed up the delivery of “full fibre” internet connection, with the super-fast service available to all by 2025, eight years earlier than currently planned. – Focus on Northern Powerhouse. – Wants to review the HS2 train project.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE

– Says there should be an automatic system for people to save for their social care costs in old age “in the same way they save for their pension”. – Says people should be able to opt out of the scheme, and the government would cap costs for those who “save responsibly” during their lives. – Mental health support to be offered in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content.

– Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. – Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party “national consensus”. – Says the NHS would be “free to everybody at the point of use” under his premiership and has ruled out a pay-for-access NHS, even as a result of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

EDUCATION

– Says anyone who creates a new business which employs more than 10 people for five years would have their university tuition fee debts written off. – He also plans a cut in interest rate paid on student loans. – Long-term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession in return for a guarantee that no one leaves the education system without a “rigorous qualification” sufficient to work up to at least the average salary. – Wants to transform the education system to abolish illiteracy.

– Promises to raise spending on secondary school pupils to £5,000 each. – Called the funding gap between some schools in cities compared with those in rural areas a “disturbing reality”.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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