UK COVID-19 Financial Support Package: How does it compare?

I write this on the day that Murdo Fraser published what could be described as a rather ill-judged article in The Scotsman. It is my opinion that Murdo attempted to play constitutional politics with a global pandemic. It is not acceptable to use this image of a poor Victorian boy in a poor house asking for a wee bit more food. A poor boy daring to stand up to the landed gentry is somehow seen by Murdo as something to sneer at. I would like to question if he thinks a story of power and poverty is a good metaphor. I would also like to question if he thinks Scotland is that poor boy who should just know their place.

1967: British child star Mark Lester as Oliver Twist asking for some more gruel during the filming of ‘Oliver’. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

 It has been evident that the COVID 19 financial support package has been turned into a weapon to beat the independence cause with. It’s why we have been putting out a daily Facebook post looking at the support packages of other similar and smaller-sized nations to Scotland. It’s always better to be on the front foot than wait for the opposition to make their move. The level and nature of the UK financial support package has indeed prompted us to look at what other countries are doing.  

Murdo has stated £10BN has been given to Scotland during this crisis. We know that the Scottish Government only equates to £3.5Bn of this £10Bn spent. £6.5Bn is money spent on our behalf by the UK Government, and how they have come up with this figure is unclear. By the looks of it, they have come to this figure by just allocating a population share of COVID support spend to Scotland, 8.4% of UK spend. If this is the case, it can’t give an accurate total of the UK spend in Scotland. For instance, London and the South East Furlough bill will be considerably higher than other parts of the UK, due to higher wages in these two regions which skew any figures worked out simply on a population share basis. Let us just take the 10Bn claim and use it to look at some other nations. Let’s shine a light on this claim that the UK’S support deal is so generous.

We start with Finland, a nation of about 5.5million people that’s very near to that of Scotland. Finland, a country that shares a border with Russia, has a large portion of its landmass north of the arctic circle. It has no oil and gas and no great food exports to speak of. As of 14th May, Independent Finland has spent 15Bn Euros on its economic support package. 15Bn Euros equates to 13.36Bn pounds. So Murdo’s boasting has exposed a financial shortfall of 3.36Bn with a similar-sized nation. You can look here and here for sources.

 Sweden has not done so well in controlling the virus and has taken a very different approach. Howveer the financial package that they have put together leaves Murdo’s 10Bn looking rather small. Sweden, a nation with a population of 10 million, has spent 300 Bn Krona, which equates to £23,165Bn. When Scotland’s population of 5.453Million and 10Bn spend is compared, it’s obvious that Independent Sweden is getting a much better deal than we are. You can look here and here for sources.

Now let’s have a look at one of the poorer northern European nations and one of the smallest. Estonia has a population of only 1.329 million therefore the lowest of the three Baltic states. Estonia has put together a package which is only slightly below Murdo’s much-heralded 10Bn when worked out per head of population. Estonia’s support package comes in at 2bn Euros or £1.784Bn. Yes, Scotland has a better deal than Estonia, but not by much, and we are comparing the UK deal to one of the poorest nations in the north of Europe. Please see here for more info.

New Zealand has an 18Bn NZ Dollars package that equates to £9.19Bn. New Zealand’s population is 4.88 million, half a million below Scotland’s. So again, the UK’S package falls short when compared with New Zealand. See here for more info.

Finally, Malta has a population of 493,599. Malta’s population could fit into Scotland’s 11 times. Malta’s financial package comes in at 1.81Bn Euros which equates to £1,616Bn. Going by Malta’s per person spend, this would mean the country spending 19.1Bn Euros if it had the same population as Scotland or 17Bn pounds. This is £7Bn more than what the UK is claiming to be spending in Scotland. The bottom line is every independent country in the world is putting financial packages together. The UK is far from exceptional by international standards. Its financial response has been average. Are we really expected to believe that Scotland could not do what Malta and others have done? Little Malta which was told by the UK that it could not afford to be independent for years?

More sources and relevant articles

COVID-19 Maltese Government Announces Financial Plan | Update 3

Coronavirus bailouts: Which country has the most generous deal?

How does the size of the UK’s fiscal response to coronavirus compare with other countries’?

By Alan Petrie