I've always regarded our current UK coalition government as mean and nasty, but it turns out that the previous Labour government was just as mean and nasty. This was certainly the case when it came to dealing with spending on the London Olympics, due to be held this year. Remember, it's the London Olympics, yet the then Labour government decided that spending on the London Olympics would count as of benefit to the whole of the UK and not just England or London. A rather arcane decision one might think, but the result was to deprive the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland of a cool £330 million.
If, as common sense would suggest, the spending on the London Olympics was primarily of benefit to London as part of England, then the other nations in the UK would have been entitled to a pro-rata increase in their budget in compensation. As a result of the Barnet formula consequentials any English spending would have automatically generated this £330 million for the devolved governments. However the then Labour government decided that in order to keep down the costs of the Olympics, remember the London Olympics, no such consequentials would be allowed.
This was an arbitrary decision of the UK Labour government. Which has all too predictably been upheld by the incoming Tory and LibDem coalition. All three devolved governments vigorously challenged this decision and their complaint went to a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee which is, surprise, surprise, chaired by a UK government minister. And this committee failed to resolve the dispute as the UK Treasury simply refused to concede any ground. The UK government subsequently coughed up a measly £30 million to be shared among the three devolved governments.
The lessons from this affair are pretty clear. The first is that the UK government, despite its title does not in fact represent the whole of the UK, but rather the more narrow interests of England. The second is that the lack of a proper written constitution and recourse to an independent Constitutional Court means that it is the UK government which has final say on any disputes. Not much in the way of respect here. The final lesson of course is that for Scotland at least, the way out of this kind of mess is to vote for independence in the forthcoming referendum. Who would want to be part of such a mean and nasty Union.
It is of course no great surprise that this decision has been somewhat under-reported in the mainstream Unionist media. For a more detailed and informed account of the whole affair please read this post by Alan Trench from his blog Devolution Matters.