Scotland spends a fifth more per pupil than England, according to Scottish Office figures. The average south of the border is Pounds 376.40 per head, against Pounds 454.20 in Scotland. Overall, comparative spending on education north of the border in 1996-97, including further and higher education, is forecast to be nearly a third higher.
Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, said last week: "Had spending per head been limited to the UK average, we would be spending Pounds 820 million less. It is instructive to note that this figure was more than the combined Scottish Office spending in 1994-95 on higher education and further education. "
Mr Robertson said Scotland had the smallest primary and secondary class sizes in Britain and higher participation rates after the age of 16. "In higher education, where there is a net inflow of students from the rest of the UK, it reflects longer and higher-cost courses such as medicine, engineering and science."
Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland 1994-95, the report that contains the comparisons, is less partisan: "It is to be expected that, within any state, the level of public expenditure will differ from one constituent part to another. Needs vary and public expenditure should reflect needs, rather than the wealth or taxable capacity of the area in question."
But it adds: "In a unitary state, these transfers between one area and another occur automatically as a result of the taxation and public expenditure system."