The Scottish MP and darling of the left Mhari Black MP recently made a speech bemoaning the fact that ‘We can afford to pay for Palaces but not pensions’. Which is all very stirring but it would seem the Ms Black can’t afford researchers. Now the state pension is a terrible Ponzi scheme as it relies on younger generations to pay the pensions of the older generations and relies upon tax income rather than actually having a fund to pay those pensions. That much is all well and good, but on the matter of paying for Buckingham and Westminster palace, she really could have done with doing a bit more research. Unless of course she’s part of these much heralded “post-truth politics” and is more concerned about soundbites than facts.
Now I’m sure that Ms. Black must just have been too busy to do her research, and perhaps forgot that the Crown Estates pay the entirety of their revenue to the exchequer and then get given back 15%. Buckingham palace forms part of the crown estates and apart from being quite a tourist draw is also heavily used for diplomatic functions. So to pay for the much neglected repairs to Buckingham palace the Government will let the Crown Estates keep an entire 25% of their income whilst the repairs are being done rather than just the usual 15%. Of course the Government could refuse to let the Crown Estates keep that extra 10% they need to repair Buckingham Palace, but it is a voluntary agreement so they could always just decide to pay normal corporation tax at 20% the same as any other business, which would reduce the states take by 65% rather than just a temporary 10%. So really the only person paying to repair Buckingham Palace is the Queen
Then there’s Westminster Palace also long neglected and in dire need of repair, one could argue that this is once more due to neglect and false economies, but we do apparently need to have somewhere for our Government to meet. As Ms Black should know Parliaments are expensive things to build. The much smaller Scottish Parliament building having cost £414 Million pounds to build, with cost over runs in the region of 900%. Now repairing Westminster is going to cost a lot more, but what are the alternatives? The current building is a grade 1 listed building (as is Buckingham Palace) and part of a UNESCO heritage site, so even if Parliament ceased to use it, it would still have to be repaired and maintained. Given its listed status I suspect it would be hard to find a private buyer willing to take on the work, as it probably wouldn’t lend itself easily to a change of purpose.
Obviously Ms Black for reasons of cost savings or shortage of time, must have been unaware of these issues when she made her speech – as I’m sure such a principled member of the SNP wouldn’t ignore facts just to make cheap political points. The problems with pensions are terrible and something should have been done about it ages ago, but the repairs to Buckingham Palace are being paid for by the Crown Estates and the houses of Parliament will have to be repaired and maintained regardless of if MPs sit in them or not. Maybe if Ms Black found the resources to do a little bit of basic research she might not get mistaken for someone indulging in post truth political sound bites.