SCOTLAND’S massive per capita health spending advantage over England has been almost wiped out since devolution, the UK’s leading economic thinktank has found.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies found the gap had shrunk under successive Holyrood governments from 22 per cent in 1999 to 10% in 2009/10 to just 3% in 2019/20.
It found NHS spending had been “prioritised to a lesser extent” in Scotland, growing by 63% overall in real terms, but by 80% in England.
However Holyrood spending in other areas was markedly higher than in England, including early years, higher education, adult social care and public order and safety.
Overall, identifiable public spending in devolved areas in Scotland averaged £7,612 person in 2019/20, or 27% higher than the £5,971 per person in England.
An IFS election briefing note also said spending per school pupil was over £7000 in Scotland, yet performance was poorer than in England, where it was less than £6000 per pupil.
It said: “Despite substantially higher levels of schools spending per pupil, Scottish secondary pupils do not outperform their English peers on international assessments.
“This is particularly evident in maths and science, where Scottish pupils’ achievement has fallen over the last 15 years while performance in England has held up to a much greater extent. And, despite substantially higher spending on higher education to underwrite tuition-free HE for undergraduates, the share of 18-year-olds entering HE has grown more slowly in Scotland than in England.”
The IFS also urged Scottish ministers to explain a “discrepancy” that meant their reported health spending appeared exaggerated.
Scottish Tory Donald Cameron said the report showed the financial benefits of the Union and some “home truths about the SNP’s appalling record in power”.
He said: “While public spending in Scotland is significantly higher per head than elsewhere in the UK, the report finds that does not equate to better services or outcomes, as can be seen with education. Like Nationalists the world over, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP seeks to blame others for their own shortcomings. The data starkly illustrates that the NHS in Scotland is less of a priority to the SNP, despite their noisy rhetoric.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The news that increases to NHS funding in Scotland have failed to keep pace with even Tory England is cause for serious concern. The last year has made it clearer than ever just how valuable our NHS is, and it is unacceptable that these vital services are being short-changed despite record levels of public spending available in Scotland.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This report rightly raises concerns about educational attainment which comes from the stodgy and bureaucratic bodies in charge of Scottish education, and an Education Secretary who refuses to listen to teachers.”
SNP candidate Emma Harper, a registered nurse, said: “Scotland has consistently maintained higher per head health spending than England, and the SNP government has invested record levels of funding in real terms into NHS Scotland. It also highlights that we’ve increased Social Care spending faster and taken forward integration. The SNP will keep making health and social care a priority.
“The convergence in funding is an example of the Barnett Squeeze – if Scotland keeps pace with percentage increases then it costs us more than we get in Barnett [funding formula] consequentials.
“That is why Scotland must have the full fiscal powers of independence.”