First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 28th June 2007.
To ask the First Minister what communication the Executive has had with Her Majesty's Government about recovering money saved by the Exchequer as a result of policy decisions in Scotland. (S3F-105)
We have made initial contact with the Department for Work and Pensions and will pursue the matter further over the summer.
The First Minister will agree that the Parliament's priority in relation to free personal care is to ensure that it operates and
I advise the First Minister that this morning, at a conference on free personal care, local authorities identified a £19 million funding gap—a gap that was also identified by the previous Health Committee. Given that the retained attendance allowance now amounts to around £30 million, does the First Minister share my view that savings that result from good governance in Scotland should be returned to Scotland? Incidentally, those savings would more than plug the funding gap that has been identified.
I share the member's view and confirm that the figure for the withdrawn attendance allowance is now £30 million a year.
Earlier this week, the new Prime Minister made the perfectly legitimate comment that Scotland had to live within its means and that no more money would be provided as a result of decisions that we make in the Parliament. However, in the case of attendance allowance, a change of policy that was pursued by the entire Parliament resulted in less money coming to Scotland. If we accept that our policy decisions on matters that have been legitimately devolved to the Parliament are constrained by decisions elsewhere, we will find that we do not have the freedom to pursue as we should a range of issues such as free personal care, because of factors such as withdrawal of attendance allowance. That is my view; it was also the view of the former First Minister, Henry McLeish.
I do not think that he was wrong; he was right on this issue. I hope that that is now the view of the entire Parliament.
As the First Minister knows, often policy decisions are taken in England for which the Scottish Government receives consequential funding from the Exchequer, under the Barnett formula. Have his officials been in discussion with the UK Government about the unclaimed asset fund, which now stands at more than £2 billion, and the consequential funding that may accrue to Scotland from it? The UK Government plans to spend that money on voluntary youth services in England. There is no constraint on the devolved Administration spending a consequential amount to guarantee the same level of voluntary youth services provision in Scotland. Will the First Minister confirm to the Parliament that he will do that?
I will pursue the issue with the United Kingdom Government. I thank the
Regardless of what people think about the Barnett formula, it gives a clearly expressed entitlement when decisions are made over what is apportioned to Scotland. The difficulty is that the withdrawal of attendance allowance is not factored into the Barnett formula, and a route to solving the difficulty illustrated by the situation with free personal care is to ensure that such issues are dealt with on a formula basis.