On the eleventh day of Christmas...


piper.jpg My true love sent to me: eleven pipers piping. It might refer to the eleven loyal apostles. But who - in the title of Brian Montieth's excellent little book on Scotland's finances - will actually pay the piper?

The bill is rising. Over the last nine years, the Scottish Executive's kitty has roughly doubled, from £16bn to over £30bn. A lot of the money, of course, comes from the Barnett Formula, which provides for public spending being about a sixth higher in Scotland. It was devised in the 1970s to help solve some Cabinet disputes, but as Milton Friedman said, there's nothing more permanent than a temporary government programme.

The Scots enjoy better-funded public services as a result, including free university education, and free care homes for the elderly. And of course they pay their police better than do the English. It's amazing how much you can achieve - on someone else's money. But how much more we would all achieve, if we were allowed to keep more of our own, and spend it efficiently on what we actually wanted, rather than inefficiently on what politicians thought we ought to have.