The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has produced its first regional analysis of UK public spending and tax collected. The ONS describes the statistics as experimental and their methodology can be found here at the beginning of the analysis. Hence, it should be treated with caution. However, the figures given by the ONS for Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland are probably broadly correct because the ONS also give figures for English regions which vary widely and seem to correspond to the economic strength of each region. If the English region figures are broadly correct then so should be those for Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland as they are computed on the same basis.
The ONS data show public spending of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland considerably exceeds the tax collected in those countries.
Per capita their overspending is as follows in the latest year calculated (2015/16)
N Ireland £5,437
The total overspend in each country calculated by multiplying the per capita sum by the population of each of the three countries gives these figures:
Scotland £2,824 x 5,373,000 (population) = £15,173,352,000
Wales £4,545 x 3,099,100 (population) = £14,085,409,500
N Ireland £5,437 x 1,851,600 (population) = £10,067,149,200
Total of public service spending by Scotland, Wales and N Ireland over and above the money collected in those countries is £39,325, 910,700
England spent only £599 per capita more than it collects in tax in 2015/16. The population of England is 54,786,300
The excess of spending over revenue in England is s £599 x 54,786,300 = £32,816,993,000
Total excess of UK spending over revenue is £39,325,910,600 + £32,816,993,000 = £72,140,190,600
England has 86% of the UK population and 44% of the excess of spending over revenue.
Scotland, Wales and N Ireland have 14% if the UK population and 54% of the excess of spending over revenue.
The population estimates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are taken from the Office for National Statistics
The Treasury payments to each Home Country
The greater overspending per capita in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is not simply a matter of the same amounts per capita being disbursed by the UK Treasury to all four UK counties, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland then running up a larger deficit in their public spending than England because they generate less tax. That is part of it but it is also a consequence of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland getting far more generous per capita payments, viz:
In 2015/16, public spending per head in the UK as a whole was £9,076. In England, it was £8,816 (3% below the UK average). This compares with:
Scotland: £10,536 (16% above the UK average) -and thus £1,720 higher than England
Wales: £9,996 (10% above the UK average) -and thus £1,180 higher than England
Northern Ireland £10,983 (21% above the UK average) – and thus £2,167 higher than England
The total difference between the Treasury disbursement to England and that to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be calculated by multiplying by their populations the difference in the per capita money Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive compared to England, viz:
Scotland £1720 x 5,373,000 (population) = £9,241,560,000
Wales £1180 x 3,099,100 (population) = £3, 656,938,000
N Ireland £2167 x 1,851,600 (population) = £4,012,417,200
Therefore for the year 2015/16 the total Treasury payments to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, over and above that paid to England, was £16,910,915,200. If the Treasury disbursements to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had been reduced to the same per capita amount as was spent in England nearly £17 billion would have been knocked off the UK government’s spending in 2015/16.
The money Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receive and spend over and above that received and spent in England is partly funded by the English taxpayer directly or adds to the UK national debt which is serviced in large part by the English taxpayer. It is also true that if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were independent countries they would neither be able to sustain anything like their current levels of funding for public services nor borrow anything like as cheaply as the UK government can (or be able to borrow at any price) to finance a large deficit .