I nearly didn’t write this post because I found it difficult to believe what the facts told me.
Browsing (I’m sad like that) the Scottish Government’s press releases for August this year, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money they’ve disbursed so far this month. I wonder how it compares with last year?’ So I checked.
- From 1 – 21 August 2013 the government made 6 funding announcements
- From 1 – 21 August 2014 they made 23 funding announcements
- They disbursed £11.6 million from 1 – 21 August in 2013
- They have disbursed over £188 million so far during August 2014
- That’s 16.3 times the amount of last year.
Two tables at the end of this post show how the figures are made up.
Some qualifications to those figures are needed before I ask the fundamental question they raise for me.
- I have only taken information from the Scottish Government’s press releases. While this might miss some commitments politicians by and large are not backward in coming forward with news of the positive things they’re doing, so I’ve assumed these are as complete lists as exist
- I have only included information from press releases that specify a sum of money
- I have excluded a few press releases where I knew a commitment had already been announced, for example the government’s £500 million contribution to the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal project. I have also excluded an announcement about NHS spend where the money involved was already in the relevant health boards’ budgets (both these examples are in 2014)
- I have not gone back beyond 2013 to see if either of the two patterns of announcements are typical
- I make no inference about inappropriate spending. Most if not all of the commitments will be in existing budgets, or at the very least contingency budgets
- The sums of money will be spent over widely different periods.
So with these points out of the way, what interests me is the fact of these announcements during the political dog days of August.
What on earth is going on? Why has the government announced over 16 times the amount of spending on ‘good stuff’ in August this year compared with 2013?
If your mind’s going the same way as mine there can only be one answer. And if, heaven forfend, Bill Clinton were Alex Salmond the sign on the First Minister’s desk would read
It’s the referendum, stupid.
What else can explain the exceptionally large scale disbursal of public funds only weeks before the referendum that determines the country’s future? From food poverty to bowling, from charities to the oil industry, and from Dumfries and Galloway to Shetland, there can scarcely be a part of Scottish society that isn’t touched one way or another by news of their government’s generosity.
Or am I being cynical?
Footnote – this post has explored a hypothesis based on a limited range of information. I will be happy to correct or amend anything that readers confirm is wrong in the text or the tables that follow.