Gordon Brown at his monthly news conference yesterday signalled that there are unlikely to be any significant changes to the principles of or the means by which the Barnett Formula, the Treasury’s formula for distribution of funds around the component nations of the United Kingdom, is calculated.

So, no change to the ability of the Scottish Executive to pay for a wide range of services and provisions which English electors are denied: free University tuition for Scottish residents being one example. No change either to the right of Scottish MPs to vote on matters at the Westminster which affect only English voters.

This is wholly unsurprising. Macavity is damned if he does make changes and damned if he does not. Since the political advantage to him and his Scots Junta remain if he makes no changes, that course was entirely predictable. If he makes changes to the amount Scotland receives, then there will be howls of protest in a electoral region where it is crucial for him to maintain Labour support. The loss of power to the SNP has hurt Labour greatly and any further erosion of their position in a future general election could be vital to Labour being in a position to form a government next time around. But not changing anything brings with it a price to pay as well: the continuing outrage of English voters whose pockets are being milked to pay for this largesse.

Nor can he for a moment concede the ground on the West Lothian Question, for to do so and prevent Scottish MPs able to vote on English only matters would crucially undermine his own legitmacy as Prime Minister: having a PM unable to vote on most of the legislation his government initiates would make a mockery of his position.

Bearing in mind it was Macavity and the Scots Junta that pushed the devolution wheeze in the first place, there is a certain delicious irony in his being hoist with his own homemade petard. It is only a matter of time before this particular piece of gerrymandering unravels completely.

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