2019 General Election: a review of the manifestos from a Scottish perspective

Inevitably, the defining feature of all the manifestos this election is the spectre of constitutional change.

For the UK-wide parties this is an issue of Brexit (or stopping Brexit), whilst in Scotland there is the added question of independence.

Beyond these major constitutional debates, reading UK election manifestos can feel a strange business from a Scottish perspective. Most of the policy pledges relate to areas that are devolved, with the next Holyrood election not for another 18 months.

Nonetheless, these pledges will still have major implications for Scotland’s budget, whilst also framing the view of what policies might be politically viable here. This is true for spending commitments, but it is now increasingly true of tax policy too.

The choices facing the electorate are stark, not just on the constitution but also day-to-day tax and spending choices. It is no surprise that with so much uncertainty, Derek Mackay has shelved plans for a pre-Christmas Scottish Budget

So what do the manifestos imply for Scotland and the Scottish Budget?Continue reading

December 2, 2019

The Scottish budget 2020/21: postponed for now… but til when?

The Scottish Government had been due to publish its draft budget for 2020/21 on 12th December.

The postponement of the UK Government’s budget – which had been scheduled for 6th November – had already thrown the status of the Scottish budget date into doubt. But the announcement of the General Election on the 12th December clearly necessitated a postponement of the Scottish budget. The Scottish Government announced last week that the Scottish budget will not be published until after Christmas.

But given that we don’t know when the next UK budget will be, when should we expect the Scottish budget? Is it even possible for the Scottish budget to be published before the UK budget, and what would be the implications if it was?Continue reading

November 18, 2019

2019 Sir Alexander Stone Lecture: ‘Brexit: the unanswered questions for UK and Scottish policymakers’

Introduction

Thank you Andrew and can I add my welcome to everyone for coming along this evening.

I must confess to only knowing of Sir Alexander Stone as the name on the building at Glasgow where my economics lectures used to be held.

For those of you who don’t know, he was a banker and philanthropist helping to support a number of notable cause across the country.

He was also the son of Jewish parents who fled Russia in the early 20th century to escape persecution.

In these current times, it does no harm to be reminded of our shared history and the importance of human values, respect, tolerance and solidarity.

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November 6, 2019

Brexit: A deal on the horizon?

Against all odds, it would appear that *some* progress has been made with regard to a possible deal that would see the UK leave the EU on the 31st October.

Securing an agreement in just 17 days is far from guaranteed and it seems likely that, even if some further progress is made, a short temporary delay – either to iron out any remaining administrative issues or to allow for a UK General Election – seems likely.

So what might this new deal mean for the Scottish economy?

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October 14, 2019

What’s happening to the Scottish block grant in 2020/21?

Last month’s UK Spending Round announced increases in UK Government resource spending of 4.1% in real terms next year. Will the Scottish block grant increase by more or less than this, and why? And what will this mean for the Scottish budget?

Departmental spending plans of the UK Government affect the Scottish block grant via the Barnett formula. The block grant increases by a population share of increases in comparable spending by the UK Government in England (or England and Wales in some cases).

And whilst revenues from devolved taxes have an increasingly material impact on the resources available to the Scottish Government, the block grant remains the most critical factor in determining the overall size of the Scottish budget.Continue reading

October 2, 2019