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Three charts that show that Scotland should stop whining

Scotland, after London, is the biggest winner from our current political arrangements. Forget stronger for Scotland, where's Yorkshire's voice?

Underlying both last year's Scottish referendum, and the surge in SNP support that's come since, there's been a feeling that the country is getting a raw deal. Scotland, the nationalists argue, has been forgotten by a Westminster government that struggles to see beyond the M25. Scotland feels unloved.

This is an argument that seems to ignore the fact that the last Chancellor of the Exchequer was Scottish, the last prime minister was Scottish, and the one before that was half-Scottish, too. But nonetheless, it's an inescapable fact that London dominates the UK to a quite horrific extent, and its ability to suck in wealth and people from elsewhere in the county and turn them into higher house prices should be a source of concern to all of us. The case for rebalancing the distribution of money and power in this country away from the capital is a pretty strong one.  

But it's not clear that Scotland has been the main victim of this trend. Compared to other regions, in fact, Scotland has done, er, pretty well, actually.

For one thing, it's richer than most other regions. This chart shows the per capital gross value add (GVA), one measure of the size of a region's economy. 

Scotland isn't as rich as London or parts of its orbit, no. But it's richer than the entire rest of the country. (This graph excludes oil and gas revenues, incidentally, so if anything it understates quite well Scotland is doing. Allocate those to Scotland, and the country's performance is about 23 per cent better.)

Scotland does rather well out of the Treasury, too – better than anywhere other than Northern Ireland. 

You'd expect a more rural region to need higher spending per head, but nonetheless.

And, despite having its own parliament, Scotland still has better representation at Westminster than many other parts of the UK. 

This graph looks at the number of MPs each region has, and the share of the UK population it contained at the time of the 2011 census. The regions on the left are over represented in the House of Commons; those on the right are under represented. Look where Scotland is.

The SNP line of late has been that Scotland needs a strong voice to represent its interests at Westminster. Fair enough, you can see why it'd be an attractive pitch.

But it's really quite hard to find a measure on which it's getting a raw deal now. Scotland is rich, and well-represented, and relatively speaking awash in public spending. It may not feel like it sometimes, on the streets of Glasgow or Dundee; but Scotland is doing alright.

All of which raises the question - when the SNP appear in national debates demanding a better settlement, then why isn't anyone making the same case for the the north east of England, say? London's dominance is a problem. But Scotland is far from its biggest victim.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.