England versus Scotland: who's better off?

These days, the Scots and the English generally rub along pretty well, without resorting to the brutal conflicts of centuries gone by - except when it comes to matters of state finance.

This is a dispute that, as a Scot formerly living in England, I'm all too familiar with: when it came to either forking out £25 to get my eyes tested in London or a trip home to go to the optician for free, the latter won out.

So how does financial life differ in Scotland from England, and where do you get the best deal?


Tuition fees were introduced in Britain in September 1998, with students required to pay up to £1,000 a year. But they were promptly abolished in Scotland after devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in July 1999, and replaced by a system of graduate endowments.

So, from 2001/02, Scottish-domiciled students and EU students were liable for a one-off fee of £2,289 following graduation. Even this was scrapped in 2008, restoring free education for current and future students, as well as those who graduated on or after 1 April 2007.

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland stipulates you must be 'ordinarily resident' to qualify for free tuition; it investigates any suspect cases. You don't have to be Scottish by birth, and there's no minimum limit on how long you have to have lived there, but you can't move north of the border for the sole purpose of education.

Meanwhile, in England, annual tuition fees have rocketed to a maximum of £3,375 for the 2011/12 academic year. The government pays these fees upfront, with graduates paying them back once they earn more than £21,000 a year (from 2012).

But they are set to soar further: Westminster MPs voted last December to allow undergraduate fees to rise to £6,000, and even £9,000 in 'exceptional' cases from next year. But only a handful of universities out of more than 130 have so far published plans to charge less than £9,000.

Scottish students who choose to come south to study must stump up the prevailing rates at English universities. In contrast, English students studying in Scotland pay a flat rate of just £1,820 a year.

However, a quirk of the system means that 'rest of EU' students have their fees paid in full by the Scottish government.

Hardly surprising, then, that student numbers in Scotland reached new heights in 2009/10. The number of EU students enrolling rose to a record 15,930 - up 94% on 2000/01.

Critics say this fees 'apartheid' is unsustainable - and that government cuts to higher education budgets mean Scottish universities can't continue to offer free tuition. They point to a funding gap between Scotland and England of between £155 million and £202 million.

However, Scottish education secretary Michael Russell declared in March that this gap was "significant but not insurmountable", and proposed a package of measures, including fee increases for 'rest of UK' students of up to £62 million and raising additional income from EU students to the tune of £22 million, to reduce it.

WINNER: Scotland


In April 2008, England joined the rest of the UK in allowing free bus travel for older residents. It's available to anyone aged 60-plus, with eligibility set to rise in line with the state pension age. You can travel between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays (or at any time at weekends or public holidays).

Free bus travel throughout Scotland for those over 60 has been available since April 2006. You can travel on any local bus or scheduled long-distance service at any time.

A concessionary travel scheme for young Scottish residents started in January 2007, which allows 16 to 18-year-olds and young full-time volunteers up to the age of 25 a third off bus and rail fares throughout Scotland. Those who live on a Scottish island are entitled to two free return ferry journeys to the mainland each year.

By contrast, in England, those under the age of 26 get a third off all rail journeys and off-peak tube travel with the Young Person's Railcard, which costs £28 a year.

WINNER: Scotland (just)


The benefits system is not devolved - so the Scots and the English have the same entitlements. These include the likes of unemployment benefit, tax credits, maternity allowance and the state pension.



The Scots are clear winners when it comes to healthcare costs. In 2007, a single-item prescription cost £6.85, lowered to £5 in 2008, £4 in 2009 and £3 in 2010.

The phasing-out of charges saved patients who bought an annual pre-payment certificate (PCC) - a money-saving measure for those who need more than four prescriptions in three months, or 14 in 12 months - £180 over three years.

Prescription fees for all patients in Scotland were abolished on 1 April (in line with Northern Ireland and Wales). Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's deputy first minister, said: "When times are tight, the last people who should be paying are the sick."

Scotland has enjoyed free eye examinations since 1 April 2006, and older people have had access to free care since 2002, although, as with tuition fees, the 'ordinarily resident' test applies.

But healthcare costs are largely chargeable south of the border. On the day prescription charges were scrapped in Scotland, they rose in England by 20p an item to £7.40. You can reduce costs with a PCC (£29.10 for three months and £104 for 12), or you may be entitled to free healthcare based on your age, income or medical status.

Children in England under 16 and young people aged 16, 17 and 18 in full-time education get free prescriptions and sight tests. A course of dental treatment that starts before your 18th birthday (or 19th if you're in full-time education) is free - as is the case in Scotland.

The over-60s in England have access to free prescriptions and sight tests, while pregnant women and those who have had a baby in the last 12 months are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment.

If you receive income support, working tax credit or child tax credit, you and your family may be entitled to help with some NHS costs. And if you're undergoing treatment for cancer, or have one of a number of medical conditions, you will get free prescriptions.

However, free healthcare in Scotland could be under threat: Lord Sutherland, the architect of universal free personal care for the elderly, said last year that "there are no sacred cows" when it comes to public spending cuts.

WINNER: Scotland


Your Comments

My understanding is that the English pay Scotland millions of pounds each year under the Scottish Act or some such thing. This helps to subsidise their country in some form or another.
Does anyone know anything further about this Act and would it not be better to use that money to subsidise our own country's residents?

The English are lazy complacent and sit and moan and do nothing about it. The government have no people with "common sense" - as my Dad used to say in the mines no "common dog f***".

We deserve what we get we give money to countries like India and Pakistan who can afford a neuc bomb so wy not help out our ungatefull neighbours up north. It probably proves what they think of us anyway just plain thick!!!!

When you write to the prime minister you get a letter back from someone who could be answering you from India.Maybe they are - or an illegal immigrant working under their noses England is the place to be!!!!

Give Scotland independance and good luck to them, let them do their own thing. Mind they wont have us to blame for the weather, losing at football and anything else that may go wrong.

I and most will be sad to see them go I suppose we will still love and hate them - which is I think is mutual.

I hope you dont think I am rasist as I lived in Brydekirk and went to to school in Annan and Gretna from age of 9 Yrs - but born In Cumberlands Lake District.
and a proud Englishman having served in the Royal Navy for 30 years where some of my best friends were Scottish and still are!!

Hope I havent bored you

Good Luck

Tug Wilson

(All Wilson,s in the RN were given the nickname Tug whether you liked it or not.)

The Young Persons railcard (mentioned above) is now called the 16-25 railcard and is available to all British residents and valid on almost all rail services in England, Scotland and Wales.

It is hardly surprising that Scotland comes off better than England in these comparisons. How does Scotland afford all this? Simple: I and millions of English taxpayers pay for it. Roll on Scottish (and therefore English) independence!

Though the benefit section was a draw it is cheaper living in scotland than in england esp the south of england so as there given the same amount of mone surely the winner again is scotland!!

So, to sum it up, it's lose, lose for England then?
I don't think I want to be part of this supposed 'union of equals' anymore.
English Parliament & English independence NOW!

Wages/Salaries - England wins and has done for years.

But this is because, due to the "Barnett Formula" formulated in the 60s, means that the English subsidise the Scots to the tune of about £11 billion. On average each Scot has 20% more spent on them than their English counterparts due to this arrangement. The Scots whine about their independance but the Scottish state is not a viable country at all, as they are totally dependant on the English for their survival.
It is really the English who should be pushing for independance to rid us of this expensive burden!!!

They can only afford this because of the subsidies from England, More proof that FOREIGN aid disadvantages the citizens of England.

Isn't educational maintenance allowance of up to £30 per week for students a form of benefit? If so, as the UK Government has yet again only picked on students in England and abolished it for them whilst students in Scotland and the rest of the UK can still continue to claim it, doesn't that make it a win for Scotland in the benefits section as well? England is the loser every time!

As a child who was born in England to a Father from Scotland and a Mother from Wales i am a bit of a mixture. I do not understand how Scotland can afford to have people not pay for all these different benefits. The Scots pay the same Nat.Ins. Tax etc. so where does our money go or are we the English paying some of these costs of the Scots? If we are not maybe the Scots could teach us a thing or two about budgeting!
Confused Anne (R)

In reply to "Wages/Salaries - England wins and has done for years." Wages maybe statistically higher but thats because costs are more, as mentioned in the points above, as well other costs such as higher house prices etc, prticularly in the London area.

Dont forget, you have advantages we in Scotland dont have..

The Dome (or O2 as it is now), the Olympics, a wonderful Royal family in residence, new nuclear power stations coming along, a couple of great big new aircraft carriers to defend the Empire, Channel Tunnel etc, etc - now I am sorry but this costs you money.

Meanwhile in poor we Scotland we spend it a bit more wisely, usually on people related items.

As to the old hokum of who contributes most - you will find Scotland has contributed more in 8 of the last 10 years to the UK economy.

What I dont understand is many of you are complaining that Scotland spends its funding differently to England. Do you spend the same as your neighbour?

And just because your neighbour doesnt.. Are they wrong?. Scotland is not England. If it was, it would vote in more than 1 Conservative MP - trust me thats better than they had before! But do our neighbours vote the same way - jings!Thats what you get with neighbours!

Do we think the same way - No, we do not still hanker over the days of Empire and do we want the luxury of Aircraft Carriers - No. Do we want Nuclear power stations etc. - No. That does not mean we are correct or indeed wrong!

If Scotland was such as basket case, why in Gods name does the UK want to hold onto it? Ah we are told it is for own good as Scotland can punch above its weight on the World Stage - excuse me?..

"Anne Confused" is about right, we budget, spend and are indeed different - not better. However in Scotland we have a Government that works for its people and we have voted for it.

Socially I have no problem being partnered with England. But a common grievance I'm reading from both parties is, economically we don't want to remain together. Couldn't agree more. Split the economies, the offshore assets at the territorial water line and move on...

That last comment about sums it up ... what happens to the Oil (and Gas) revenue?

You haven't got a clue what you're talking about. Barnett was implemented in 1979, Barnett was supposed to keep nationalism at bay and hide the true fortune of Scotland wealth. Something that UK governments went to great lengths to hide.

11 Billion you say.......13.5 Billion taken in mineral wealth from Scottish boundaries alone, revenue which conveniently is ascribed to a "UK special zone" and not to Scotland.

The UK has "striped" Scotland bare and will continue until us Scots wake up.

As for the article....

Scotland has a population of 5million Englandshire some 50 million. it's easier for a government to have social policies such as free eye tests and prescriptions for 5 million than a gov that has 50 million.

Who spend the most in cash terms? 5 million? or 50 million?


Go Margaret, your digging your own grave fast - you don't need Ann's help.

Of course the Scottish Parliament Building did'nt go way over budget did it!! And oh.......who was it bailed out the Scottish Banks?

Do some background reading from reliable sources before putting your foot in it.

I am a Scot and am in no way a Nationalist, however it is shocking that so many of my English friends post on here without checking out their facts. Is moneywise a branch of the Daily Mail?

The previous poster Dusty has summed up things fairly accurately and it should also be remembered that the people of Wales and Northern Ireland also receive more per head than England. Think a little deeper before you make a quick draw for the keyboard.

George Mc


Our debt could have been paid off by the the 1.7 Billion spent on Gadaffi and not increasing overseas aid by millions.

However the EU will bankrupt us in time. Thanks for reading.


Scotland has subsidised the UK, including England, to the tune of billions of pounds through taxes collected by HMRC since 1970.
The Barnett Formula is used to balance expenditure in the UK as it is more expensive to deliver equal services in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales compared to England with its much larger population.
England also enjoys a massive imbalance in the amount of Government money spent in England by different UK Departments.