Scotland politics

Scottish minister Keith Brown voices anger over DUP deal

Keith Brown
Image caption Keith Brown was in London to speak with UK ministers about the DUP deal

Scotland's economy minister Keith Brown said the UK government's deal with the DUP had made him "angry".

He spoke after holding talks with UK ministers in London on the issue.

Mr Brown expressed worries that Scotland could face further cuts to its budget to help pay for the £1.5bn heading to Northern Ireland.

Downing Street has insisted the Barnett formula does not apply to the deal and that Scotland receives "substantial funding" outside that formula.

The minister said that while some progress had been made on "specific" issues, it was important to point out that the DUP deal would affect the support Scotland receives.

Mr Brown believed that if the Northern Ireland agreement had been applied fairly to other parts of the UK, then Scotland would have benefited by about £3bn.

After his meeting in Westminster, he told the BBC: "As things stand, we are not going to get that £3bn, but we have now had confirmation from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Struss, there will be no increase in UK Departmental Expenditure Limits (Del).

"This deal does what David Mundell said it shouldn't, it circumvents Barnett and it means instead of getting £3bn that Scotland would have been entitled to you get nothing, and more than that it means the money from the DUP deal seems it will be met from other budgets, including potentially Scotland's budgets.

"That is why we are very angry about it.

"It is a breach of Barnett, it is a breach of the funding principles."


What is the Barnett formula?

  • Since the late 1970s the Barnett formula has been used to determine annual changes in the block grant to each nation of the UK
  • When there is a change in funding for devolved services in England, for example health or education, the Barnett formula aims to give each country the same pounds-per-person change in funding
  • But the formula is not set out in law, and in practice the Treasury decides how to apply it
  • The UK government also provides other grants to devolved administrations outside of the block grant, which are not covered by Barnett
  • These grants are for less predictable demand driven spending, and are negotiated between the UK government and devolved administrations

Speaking on the issue on Sunday, the environment secretary Michael Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that parts of the UK with additional needs have been supported "more generously" by the government.

"We want to the ensure that Northern Ireland and all its communities can emerge from that process stronger," he said.

His comments were dismissed by Mr Brown.

"The idea that Michael Gove is saying this is because Northern Ireland has additional needs...is nonsense," he said.

"We all know this because of a deal that the Tories want to strike to stay in power in Westminster and what we're saying is that Scotland shouldn't suffer for that."

The UK government has said the money allocated to Northern Ireland was a "targeted intervention" similar to city deals in Scotland and Wales.

'Severe financial consequences'

Mr Brown said Westminster only funded reserved matters as part of city deals, and it had to be matched by the Scottish government.

He explained: "We're the ones spending more money on city deals in Scotland," he said.

"The idea that Northern Ireland who - we don't know yet but we understand will not be required to pay match-funding for this - and also it will be for devolved functions so it is again circumventing the normal process of city deals and it's all in the aim of keeping the Conservatives in power."

A UK government spokeswoman said: "The deal agreed between the UK government and the DUP brings stability, which will be vitally important as we prepare to leave the EU.

"The deal is fully transparent and conforms to the rules governing the Barnett formula. The Barnett formula is good for Scotland but would be lost, with severe financial consequences, under the Scottish government's plans for independence.

"Scotland has also received substantial funding outside of the Barnett formula. That includes almost £700m so far for UK City Deals in Scotland, as well a host of other initiatives, including £5m for Glasgow School of Art, £5m for the Burrell Collection, £5m for the V&A in Dundee, and £5m to regenerate Helensburgh's waterfront."

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