Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: We'll pay the price of a Yes vote at Stormont says Health Minister Edwin Poots

By Victoria O'Hara

Scotland voting Yes for independence would not provide Northern Ireland with a financial boost, Health Minister Edwin Poots has said.

As millions of Scottish people go to the referendum polls, Mr Poots said the country remaining part of the UK would ensure the people across Northern Ireland would be financially and socially better off.

He said the Barnett formula, which has been used to distribute UK wealth across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the past 35 years, had benefited the region and had been good for the health service and other social services.

The Health Minister added: "We have just recently announced the Barnett formula will remain and the Barnett formula ensures that Northern Ireland gets on average £2,000 more per head than in the (rest of the) UK.

"So it is a formula which hasn't been unkind to Northern Ireland."

The average UK per capita spend on "geographically identifiable" services is £8,788

Treasury figures show that public spending per head in Scotland was £10,152 in 2012-13 – 16% more than the UK average.

England is 3% less, Wales 10% more and Northern Ireland 24% more, with £10,900 per head allocated under the scheme. "Scotland remaining in the Union will ensure that formula isn't reassessed or changed," Mr Poots added.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to keep the formula despite opposition from some politicians.

In 2010 he had said it was "coming to the end of its life".

Many MPs who represent English constituencies have called for reform of the Barnett system as they feel England loses out.

Critics say it gives Scotland an unfair share of government spending.

Those opposing the formula complain that it has enabled Scotland to adopt policies such as free social care for the elderly and free student tuition that have not been affordable in England.

In the countdown to the Scottish referendum Lord Barnett–who devised the method of allocation – also called for it to be replaced.

He said it was a "terrible mistake" and had become a "national embarrassment".

As Mr Poots made his comments, his DUP party colleagues were out and about in Belfast to show their support for the Union.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland was at Woodvale Park in the north of the city along with DUP MLA William Humphrey and other supporters to show their opposition to independence and calling on Scots to vote No.

DUP councillor Ruth Patterson, waving a small Scots flag more typical of the Yes campaign, joined anti-independence protesters in Botanic Gardens in south Belfast.

She carried a placard telling Scotland: 'We don't want you to go'.

It also read 'We still love you so', signing off, 'your friend, Northern Ireland'.

The small group had earlier gathered in a city centre park holding a Scottish saltire and the Union flag. They also held signs stating 'Vote No Thanks'.

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