The UK, under the stewardship of New Labour has seen a massive increase in public sector employment. I can recall watching BBC documentaries in recent years where the scale of this expansion has been explained. It isn’t small.
It seems that the biggest beneficiary has been Scotland. I’m not going to go along with the conspiracy theorists that charge two Scottish Chancellors of the Exchequor of expanding their financial pie to secure votes at election time. But it is easy to see why such theories exist.
It is clear that the policy works however.
Your author has been to Scotland about 10 times, with another trip due this summer, and the transformation is clear. Glasgow is now a great place to visit with lots going on, great shopping, bars and clubs and a modern and cosmopolitan feel. Contrast that with the Glasgow of the 1980s! Finding links from the 80s isn’t easy, so instead I offer this link and picture as my poor attempt at proof. Needless to say, the Glasgow of the mid 1980s was a very barren place.
The Scottish economy isn’t the most well diversified on earth. At least not to the poorly informed naked-eye of a tourist like me. Now that North Sea Oil is slowing down, tourism and agriculture appear to be the mainstays. Well, that isn’t quite true or fair. Edinburgh has a financial services industry of some note. And Glasgow now has a number of call centres for nationwide UK companies.
But somehow, somewhere - and it seems reasonable to presume that the NHS and education are the locations - taxpayers money is really being spent. This post from the SNP in December is trying to highlight just how badly impacted Scotland would be if the Conservative spending cuts were implemented.
But the recent news ( here on the BBC ) suggests that there will be significant cuts in public sector positions in 2010. With public debts rising out of control, changes are inevitable - so inevitable that even President Sarkozy is having to discuss pension reform with the unions! - but the outcome of the changes may be felt much more in some places than in others, making this recession much deeper in these areas.
My fingers are crossed that Scotland fares well. But I fear that my finger crossing may not be enough.