Fiscal Policy

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In headline terms, the Spending Review looks little different from the public finance forecasts in the summer budget. The Government will achieve a fiscal surplus by the end of this parliament (the first time that this has been achieved since 2001). And total public spending as a percentage of GDP will fall from 40% currently to 36%.
 
But Osborne has managed to achieve this whilst simultaneously being more generous on the spending side.
 
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The Scottish government’s block grant allocation between 2015-16 and 2020-21 was set in the 25th November spending review delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Current spending will increase from £25.9 billion now, to £26.5 billion in 2019-20. This represents a 5% real cut (equivalent to £1.3 billion). In contrast, due to the UK government’s decision to increase capital spending by £12 billion compared with its plans last July, Scotland’s capital budget will increase from £3 billion to £3.5 billion by 2020-21, an increase of around 10% in real terms.
 
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The proposals within the Scotland Bill - as well as the associated fiscal framework currently being worked out by the UK and Scottish Governments - represent big changes to Scotland’s political system, says Nicola McEwen. However, has enough room been left for the public at the negotiating table? 
 
“With great power comes great responsibility” – in Uncle Ben’s memorable last words to Spiderman. But is the reverse also true? Do great responsibilities bring great power?
 
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Popular pressure for further fiscal devolution from Westminster to Holyrood is less a matter of wanting to pursue a different policy agenda, says David Eiser, and more a matter of who the electorate trusts. 
 
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Why should Scottish MPs vote on English issues, when the same matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh? The famous “West Lothian question” became a major theme for the Conservative Party during an election (2015) that might have seen SNP MPs holding the balance of power. Following its victory, the Conservative government produced proposals for “English votes for English laws”. 
 
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