If the energy expended on working out whether England subsidises Scotland or whether all North Sea oil is in Scottish territorial waters could be connected up to the National Grid, then the wind turbine programme could be cancelled and electricity bills scrapped.
It is ironic that no mention is made of the Barnett Formula in connection with the Falklands Islands public finances.
The Falklands Islands government had revenues of £42.4 million from fisheries licences and taxation in 2009/10 and spent £47.6 million on public services for the Falklands. The Falkland Islands is “economically self-sufficient”, only relying on the UK for foreign affairs and defence. Defence of the Falkland Islands, i.e. one airbase, four Typhoon fighters, three radar stations, one thousand service men and women, several helicopters, one frigate, a patrol ship and a submarine costs “about 0.5% of the UK defence budget”, i.e. about £180 million per year for 3,000 people with a per capita income of about £40,000 and no unemployment. Compare that with Scotland’s figures of about £21,000 and unemployment around 8%. That’s not fair.
But, people say, so long as the Falklanders wish to remain a self-governing British Overseas Territory, we should skew the defence budget to protect the 3,000 mile logistics neck down to the South Atlantic. One or both of the £10 billion Queen Elizabeth class carriers is allegedly vital for the islands’ defence. After all, there may be oil down there – ignoring the fact the tax revenues from which will stay in Port Stanley.
Another argument is that the Falkland Islanders wish to live there with red phone boxes and fish and chips and Coronation Street on cable TV and we should support their right to do so. But that right was never granted to the inconveniently black Chagossians who were evicted from their homes in 1965 to enable the Diego Garcia base to be built. Thanks to a cunning plan in the form of a maritime nature reserve they will never be allowed to return.
The final argument propounded is that because 256 British servicemen died in 1982 to recapture the islands from Argentine invaders, the ground is sacred and forever part of Britain. Yet the UK is planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2015 after losing 375 sons and daughters and the vast majority of the 16,000 military deaths since 1945 were in former parts of the British Empire.
Is it fair for the wishes of 3,000 people to dictate the defence and foreign policy of 61,000,000? In Warwickshire, hundreds of people will be forced to leave their lifetime homes that will be compulsorily purchased for the unpopular HS2 train line and thousands forced to endure noise and loss of amenity for the “greater good”. Isn’t a negotiated transfer of sovereignty, with the opportunity of generous compensation and relocation to the UK or even New Zealand for people who didn’t want to stay, be the only sustainable solution to an ongoing problem that will be an increasing burden on the defence budget?