How does Scotland use the relative flexibility afforded by its fiscal settlement? In 2013/14 it spent about 6.5 per cent more on health per person than the UK average, down from 16.5 per cent in 1998/1999. While allowing the extra amount it spends on health—and on education—to fall, the Scottish government has dramatically increased spending in other areas. For example, Scotland spends more than twice as much per person on “enterprise and economic development” and agriculture than the UK average, three-quarters more per person on transport and approximately one-half more on “recreation, culture and religion.”
One might expect the Scottish government to reduce the extra amount it spends on core public services if Scotland’s health service, education system and police force were noticeably better than those in England. But there is little evidence that this is the case.
That is from John McDermott’s lengthy critique of SNP, there is much more at the link, an excellent piece. There is this part too:
In PISA, the influential international education tests, “Scotland’s performance was significantly worse in 2012 than it had been in 2000,” noted Keir Bloomer, an education expert and one of the authors of the country’s curriculum. The previous government shares responsibility for these results, but it was the SNP who withdrew Scotland from two other important cross-country tests: the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS). Bloomer added: “It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that Scotland has chosen to make itself less accountable by ceasing to take part in the surveys in which it tended to do less well.”
Bloomer also says that contrary to the SNP’s claims, the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils has widened. Referring to PISA results, Bloomer said that reading and maths scores declined by more among poorer pupils, and the only reason equity increased in science results is because those of richer students fell further than those of poor pupils. Referring to Scottish data, Bloomer added that “there is no evidence that the gap has narrowed.”
This kind of critical analytic reporting, backed by economic reasoning and data, should be more common.
Hat tip goes to the essential Gideon Rachmann.