GERS then and now

GERS again?  Really? I know, it’s getting a bit ridiculous now, isn’t it?

Yet here we are again with the latest denial mechanism for those who simply don’t want to believe the inconvenient conclusions from their own government’s statistics.

I know it’s a generation ago now but some of you may remember that, before the last independence referendum in 2014, the GERS figures were used repeatedly by anti-union campaigners as evidence of Scotland’s superior fiscal position to the rest of the UK.

Cited on 15 occasions by the SNP’s white paper on independence,  and by their Fiscal Commission Working Group, Business for Scotland, Yes Scotland and every SNP politician including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon (who incorrectly claimed they showed a surplus) there was absolutely no doubting their trustworthiness.

[See this from Blair McDougall for a full collection of GERS praise from the SNP]

As the campaign progressed, the spin imparted on the figures began to fray around the edges – particularly after the release of the 2012/13 version six months before the vote.

In response to this, the compliant online wing of the independence movement began to fabricate myths to bolster the figures.  It started with the invention of taxes that simply didn’t exist – the infamous whisky export duty – and when that was proven for the lie it was [LINK] they progressed onto bizarre claims that first VAT and then corporation tax were assigned according to company headquarters and so missed from GERS – proven wrong [LINK].  After that, they claimed GERS didn’t include our appropriate share of oil revenues – also debunked [LINK].

Next, they claimed that GERS included billions of spending on English projects – Crossrail, London Sewers et al – that an independent Scotland wouldn’t pay for.  Another lie. [LINK]

More recently there have been claims that an independent Scotland wouldn’t inherit any sovereign debt repayments or pay for state pensions which, whilst both stupendously wrong [LINK and LINK], at least accepted the current figures at face value.

Murphy’s Law

Myth after myth, meme after meme, those people who had been so full of praise for GERS when it suited them, now remained silent – refusing to publicly debunk when deliberate disinformation and public ignorance aided their constitutional obsession.  Indeed, on occasion it was apparent that some of the looser cannons amongst the SNP-fold actually believed the lies.

Of late a new line has taken hold, fostered by Richard Murphy – Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London.  The claim is that the data the Scottish Government’s statisticians use to produce GERS is not fit for purpose – a claim which seems to rest heavily on the assumption that because the data comes from ‘London’ then it must be biased against Scotland… it’s self-evident…

Professor Murphy also claims that because some of the revenue streams are estimates of Scotland’s share of total UK tax, they are therefore unsuitable.  For the purposes of this blog, I will leave discussion on the suitability of the estimates to people better qualified than I am – such as Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute [LINK] or Professor Ronald MacDonald, Research Professor in Macroeconomics and International Finance at the Adam Smith Business School, and Professor Angus Armstrong, Director of Macroeconomics at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research [LINK].

Professor Murphy’s comments were shared online by several SNP politicians, more than happy to further muddy the waters of economic reality but it was noticeable that, when asked directly, the official line from the Scottish Government and Finance Secretary was to distance themselves from claims the current figures are inaccurate.

Derek Mackay, never a man to inspire confidence that he’s fully in charge of his brief, had the following to say:

“…I’ll take those statistics at face value… I accept the estimates as they are, but I think we could do so much better.

In terms of the statistics available between the UK government statistics, the ONS (Office for National Statistics) and what the Scottish government produces, yes, they are accurate.  But they are an accurate assessment of estimates of where we are right now – not the starting position of an independent Scotland.”

This now appears to be the go-to line for those who find it just too inconvenient to answer questions on how an independent Scotland would deal with the near-£15bn deficit.

And this week, following a Radio Scotland debate between Richard Murphy and Kevin Hague, there was much crowing from nationalists when they thought someone on ‘the other side’ was saying the same thing:

 Unionist blogger @kevverage concedes #GERS figures can’t tell us about finances of an independent Scotland on @BBCJohnBeattie show #ScotRef

— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) April 12, 2017

The problem for Ms Cherry et al is this is not something that is, as she pejoratively claims, “conceded”.  It’s simply the repetition of the very point Kevin (and the rest of us) have been making for years now.

In fact, it’s the very same argument made by the SNP’s white paper for independence and everyone, including Ms Cherry, who backed it as the foundation of their case for separation.  To quote:

This chapter sets out Scotland’s public finances and demonstrates that Scotland has the financial foundations to be a successful independent country.

It also provides an overview of the financial position that the Scottish Government expects an independent Scotland to inherit and this Government’s early priorities for public spending and revenue.

The starting point for this analysis is the National Statistics publication, Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS). GERS is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances…

To enable an informed assessment of the financial position of an independent Scotland, the Scottish Government has prepared projections of Scotland’s public finances under the current constitutional framework

So, just three years ago, the SNP were telling us that GERS is “the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances”, shows a trend of Scotland’s fiscal position and that it provided the starting point for an informed assessment of an independent Scotland.

We agree.  Why have they changed their mind?

(In)Convenient truth

If we were to become independent, the first government would face a multitude of choices on how to run the new country.  One, albeit ludicrously implausible, scenario would see them run things in exactly the same manner as exists within the UK – this would result in, all other things being equal, the deficit shown within GERS.

Of course common sense dictates that this would never happen – the government would pursue different policies and these, along with both beneficial and detrimental external factors, would influence government revenue and spending.

All we’ve ever asked is for those seeking separation to tell us what these alternative policies are and what impact they would have from the starting point of GERS.  If you think independence would be such a huge success for Scotland, it really shouldn’t be difficult to quantify the economic benefits.  Should it?

Sadly, it seems that perhaps it is.  The current tactic from the SNP is not just to ignore the economic questions posed by GERS but to deliberately undermine the work conducted by the statisticians of their own government, work which they had previously lauded as “authoritative”.  Instead, their current argument appears to be “we can’t tell anything about the economics of independence so let’s just take a punt, eh?”

…and hope that no-one notices.  Do they really think the Scottish public are that stupid?  Do they really think we can’t see through it?

Frankly, I doubt the Scottish public will take kindly to being treated with such utter contempt.

First published on the author’s own site



  1. Joe Mellon says

    Well, let’s concede the point that GERS have been misused politically.
    Let’s also concede the point that Scotland’s economy can’t afford decent public services.

    Would Fraser Whyte like to tell us why Scotland’s economy is such a basket case?

    I note that Ireland despite a battering in the 2008 crisis has a higher GDP per head and a higher standard of living than Scotland.
    I note that most small European nations – especially the north European ones – have a higher GDP per head and a higher standard of living than Scotland.
    I note that Norway has an incredibly high standard of living, and is securely wealthy for generations to come. But then they wisely didn’t give all their oil wealth to Sweden.

    I recently visited Ireland for the first time in 25 years and was blown away by the size and activity of Dublin airport, by the size and activity in the industrial and commercial surrounding Dublin, by the vibrant life in Templebar, by the well visited chic brasseries and restaurants. (And that is Ireland in crisis and making massive debt repayments!)

    So Fraser, you are right – Scotland’s economy is weak.
    Now tell us *why*! Why it can’t afford the public services usual in Western Europe? What you think the prospects are for doing better in the UK union?

  2. Michael says

    Have a look at the health services in Ireland. You need top up insurance and many conditions treated as a matter of course in the UK are not covered. Getting state funded health care for children can take years.

    The measure of success isn’t how busy an airport is, it’s the quality of life for those living there…

    • Joseph MELLON says

      Ah – but the NHS is in crisis because the Tories are privatising it.
      So how long is the NHS going to last?

      And the Barnett consequentials mean Scotland will be affected too.

      You have put your hat on a shoogly peg there Micheal…

      BTW: you pay top up in many countries with excellent health services, e.g. Germany and France.

    • Me Bungo Pony says

      Should we look at the quality of life of those living in Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and the Alpine countries? All markedly better than Scotland under the Union.

      According to the article and its Unionist supporters, Scotland under the Union cannot even dream of emulating the quality of life enjoyed by the residents of the afore mentioned countries. Do you not think it is time to change all that? The Union has singularly failed to ensure Scots enjoy the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens of ALL our small, independent neighbours.

      Do you not think it is time we took matters into our own hands and did something about it? Or should we just stay in our box, with our fingers crossed, hoping that some how, eventually, the Union will finally come good for us? Well, it hasn’t worked for 300 years. Why should any sane person think it will now?

  3. Ken Elis says

    I am no economist or Finance expert but try these three for starters

    Scotland’s tax base is very small and can’t produce enough revenue to pay for the health, social services, education
    The Scottish state is too big and employs too many people
    The Scottish economy has stagnated and will shrink. Under the constant threat of a second refererendum, a high and probably higher tax regime.

    If you can’t take these points onboard as reality and fact you will probably swallow the SNP propaganda, believe in money trees and unicorn…….

    • Me Bungo Pony says

      Yeah, Scotland under the Union is apparently a basket case. Something Unionists are more than happy to crow about and some how see as a good thing.

      Now, why would we want to part of a Union that has impoverished us? The surest way to ensure nothing changes is to change nothing. Sorry, but the stats Unionists relish so much only bolster the case for change ….. the case for Independence.

    • Joseph MELLON says

      So Ken – let’s summarise: inside the Union Scotland’s economy has become a basket case with endemic emigration for the last 100 years (until very recently). It has stagnated and you predict it will shrink further.

      Would that be the Union bonus?

      Ireland left the UK in 1922 and only properly came out of the UK’s shadow when it joined the EU in the 70’s. Since then it’s economy has blossomed and grown at an astonishing rate. How would you predict Ireland’s future? Also stagnating and declining like Scotland’s? (Note: Ireland had/has no oil)

      How about Norway’s future? (Left Union with Sweden in 1905).
      Finland? (Left Union with Russia in 1917).

  4. David Appleton says

    Ireland underwent massive public spending cuts and significant increases in taxes to restore it’s public finances to a sustainable footing. Scotland’s experience has been entirely different, with public spending niw higher than pre-crisis levels (‘Tory’ austerity?) and tax rates not rising and in some cases falling. The point is about having an honest debate about the real world consequences of being independent. It is beyond doubt that Scotland spends significantly more per person on public services than the RUK. That is only sustainable in an independent Scotland if we raise more tax revenue to enable us to run a sustainable fiscal position. It is up to the pro-independence movement to set out a vision of how that will be achieved, or if not then how and what services will be cut or what taxes will be increased.

    • Joseph MELLON says

      It is up to the Unionists to explain the poor performance of Scotland in the UK, and explain how things will change. They might also explain what will happen under a Tory government in the next 1o years. Good luck with that one. Finally you might explain what was done with Scotland’s oil wealth.

      • David Appleton says

        Our economy performs well as part of the UK – over 60% of our trade is with RUK. This is not an accident – we have a fully integrated economy with no trade barriers. Trade with the UK up over 50% in past decade while has not increased with the amazing EU single market. I am not party political but the facts are that the Tory government has secured the strongest economic recovery of any major developed economy following the financial crisis. Government spending in Scotland is now higher than it was pre-crisis as a result with significant tax and spending decisions now taken in Scotland not decided by Tory government. On Oil wealth, you mean the £66m generated this year vs SNP’s £8bn predicted? I’m pretty glad the £40bn decommissioning costs will be shared across the UK and not just paid by Scottish taxpayers.

        • Joseph MELLON says

          That 60% of trade is done with the rUK is not proof of how healthy the Scottish economy is: rather how one sided.

          > On Oil wealth, you mean the £66m generated this year

          Oh no! I mean the total wealth already extracted, and the wealth still there. The trillion (that is thousand thousand million, 1,000,000 *million* GBP ) or two already extracted, not to mention the GBP 1.5 trillion still there.

          Note: Norway currently has a sovereign wealth fund of c. 260 billion.

          Scotland gave its wealth to the British establishment who used it to conduct class war under Thatcher and to stuff their offshore bank accounts.

          So the UK now has a few happy billionaires, and millions of impoverished citizens. Norway has 5 million happy and wealthy citizens.

        • Joseph MELLON says

          …and who agreed that the taxpayer should pay the the £40bn decommissioning costs, and not the oil companies who made out like bandits?

          (Hint: begins with ‘Westm’ , located in central London, and I am sure there was absolutely no conflict of interests involved: no-one connected to government or the Tory or Labour parties got rich)

  5. Radio Jammor says

    As for the quality of the data currently going into GERS, I agree with Murphy, it should be far better. The issue however becomes a practical matter as to whether it is currently possible to do this.

    The politicians – and Kevin Hague it seems – have taken the pragmatic view that the data is as good as it can be currently.

    I think however that they have been accepting of the quality of the data for too long, most probably because civil servants have made a case for not spending time and money on making immediate and significant system improvements to obtain the level of quality that Murphy is talking about – far more actual data and less by way of estimate.

    It is not as if anyone can shop around for alternative data sets.

    The Hague/Murphy debate was certainly informative for people who were not informed before. With the two having agreed so publicly that GERS does not reflect what an Independent Scotland would look like, a lot of people merely quoting the headline GERS figures have suddenly shut-up from using them to throw cold water on the finances of an independent Scotland.

    I see you are not one of them.

    “This now appears to be the go-to line for those who find it just too inconvenient to answer questions on how an independent Scotland would deal with the near-£15bn deficit.”

    There is unlikely to be a £15bn deficit. You are using GERS figures from what has been clearly established to be a framework that calculates a notional figure for the state of Scotland’s finances, as it is, within the UK.

    “It’s important to remember that GERS does this taking Scotland as a mini-UK, and the constraints and protections that the current constitutional arrangements bring.” – Fraser of Allander Institute.

    As Common Weal has demonstrated, once these arrangements are gone, Scotland’s finances would look a lot healthier. Any deficit is unlikely to be as large as GERS indicates. It is likely to be significantly less, once Scotland has full control of its finances and spends what it actually needs to spend.

    Until there is a time-frame in place for a referendum and for when Scotland would become independent following a “Yes” vote, there is no point in publicly producing and disseminating how a Scottish Government would go about handling Scotland’s finances.

    Your complaint about the lack of answers as to how Scotland would deal with a £15bn deficit is a therefore a strawman argument. The figures will be different and you are essentially demanding a constantly updated White Paper on independence, as that is the only way to answer you.

    Such demands are therefore unreasonable – therefore so are you.

    I might add that it would be so imprudent to provide documents and answers to your questions at this time that the Scottish Government should be taken to task if it did.

    It wouldn’t be doing the day job.

  6. Keith macdonald says

    Good piece reminding us that GERS was accepted by a lot of nationalists until it clearly did not support their case. At times like this it is not hard to believe that Donald Trump has Scottish ancestry ! As of the moment it is still being accepted by the First Minister. She has little choice since it is produced by her Government.

    The one valid point made by your critics is that this unhealthy situation is not really an endorsement of the union. Indeed I suspect that most parts of the UK would have a similar public sector deficit sustained largely by the boom economy of London and the South East.

    The answer is for Scotland to work with other parts of the UK to rebalance the UK economy, not to try to rebuild a barrier between us that has not existed for 300 years. Once the current obsession of Scotland’s leaders with constitutional as opposed to practical “independence” is cured we may get round to doing something about that.

  7. Michael says

    Given that all parties understand that GERS figures are based on estimates and the nationalists claim the true figures are not as bad as they seem, I assume that we can also agree that the deficit might be much WORSE than the £15bn figure that they show?
    It would be very unlikely that estimated figures would hit the absolute worst case…

    • says

      Michael, you don’t appear to understand the problem with GERS or how it impacts the financial case for independence.

      The issue with GERS data is that it is not actual in most instances and could be much more accurate. The level of inaccuracy overall, however, is unlikely to be that great, either way, as the estimations should be fairly accurate – but it would be good to be sure.

      The main issue with GERS is how the figures are then taken ver batim from GERS and used in the Independent Scotland argument.

      Whilst the Indy campaign has made ever improving efforts to try and take the data from GERS and extrapolate it into a budget for Scotland as if it were an independent country, in order to give people at least an idea of what the finances would look like, the tendency at the moment is for Unionists to quote the headline figures from GERS in order to pour cold water on the idea, because of the deficit it shows.

      Aside from the argument that any such deficit is on Westminster’s watch, it is simply wrong to take the bottom line straight from GERS and apply it to an independent Scotland.

      As Murphy and Hague agree, GERS is designed to show the current state of affairs of Scotland as a region within the UK.

      Fraser of Allander Institute writes, “GERS estimates Scotland’s public sector finances as a mini-UK, and this comes with constraints and protections. A large part of the GERS expenditure and revenue figures are choices made by the UK Government rather than the Scottish Government (e.g. defence spending).”

      Without these constitutional constraints and protections, Scotland’s budget and financial state would look significantly different.

      Common Weal has projected that an independent Scotland’s deficit could be less than £6bn.

      You may then care to reflect that the OP, when they said, “This now appears to be the go-to line for those who find it just too inconvenient to answer questions on how an independent Scotland would deal with the near-£15bn deficit”, is still taking the figure straight from GERS without any kind of extrapolation and as if GERS still applied in an independent Scotland.

      They are also expecting answers to questions that no one in their right mind is going to answer until there is a timetable in place for a referendum and for when a “Yes” vote creates an independent Scotland.

      In order to answer this, an updated White Paper would need to be produced, whenever someone makes this argument.

      • Maurice Bishop says

        “Common Weal has projected that an independent Scotland’s deficit could be less than £6bn.”

        Because it is convenient for them to do so. Their analysis was done by amateurs who started from the assumption that independence would be affordable and then they went looking for arguments to support their desired outcome.

        • says

          Interestingly, Common Space publishes the very outspoken critique of Margaret Cuthbert, one of the economist/statisticians responsible for rigorous scrutiny of GERS – and by no means a Unionist. It’s well worth reading her Common Space article of August 2016 (perhaps someone should send it to Richard Murpnhy).
          ‘What the GERS and Brexit reports tell us about Scotland’s economy’

          She makes a strong case for more transparency from the Scottish Government – and the need for a better informed public and more probing media. She says, ‘Worryingly, GERS gives just part of the story of Scotland’s debt position, and this is because the Scottish Government has yet to allow the publication of Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) – accounts which are available for the UK.’

          • Joseph MELLON says

            Indeed, as Margaret Cuthbert notes:

            “Much more attention needs to be paid as to why there is such a need (and there is such a need, if not more of a need) to spend so much on health and welfare in Scotland.

            How much of the health and social spending has resulted from years of poor employment opportunities, low wages, poor qualifications, poor housing? In that examination, the long term management of the Scottish economy must be considered: was that management in the interests of those who live in Scotland? ”

            As examples:
            – Scotland does not have the vibrant media industry which Denmark or Ireland have. This isn’t just cultural impoverishment, it is a lot of talent, skills, income *and tax* which has been lost. Note: The BBC license fee collected in Scotland gets mostly spent near London.
            – the Scottish fishing industry and income has contracted dramatically in the last 50 years, Not least because we now know that the UK government threw it under a bus in the CAP negotiations: the priority was East Anglian corn. Hard to imagine Ireland throwing its dairy industry to the wolves in support of East Anglian wheat farmers. Very easy to imagine Westminster doing so if it could.

            There are hundreds of decisions big and small made every year which add up. There is a saying in Germany “The shirt is closer than the jacket”. Every large post colonial state (the UK, France, Spain, …) has a bloated centre with an establishment determined to maintain itself in the style to which it has become accustomed: and impoverished, unhappy peripheral regions performing poorly economically. The exceptions are of course those regions or composite states with a strong sense of identity who can – to some extent protect – their interests: for example Catalan and Scotland.

        • says

          Maurice’s constant criticisms of items produced on Common Weal are well known on the site and are memorable in so far as always remembering that they should be ignored.

          I believe there is a genuine desire on both sides of the indy argument for an accurate picture of a Scottish economy as it is and how it could be. The simple fact of the matter is the data that goes into GERS also affects the indy Scotland calculations. They are significantly different calculations, but the source data is the same (hence why I never agree with statements to the effect of ‘GERS is a starting point for Indy’ – it isn’t, but the data that goes into GERS is).

          For me, the case has been made in principle that an Indy Scotland would be at least slightly better off (e.g. £9bn) without those constitutional “constraints and protections” currently in place, whatever the state of GERS.

          But it would be good to be have a more accurate picture of how much it is by.

          • Maurice Bishop says

            Two simple questions:
            1) Was the Common Weal “report” produced by amateurs, as I said?
            2) Was it written as an open-ended inquiry, or was it written to “proven” the pre-conceived notion that independence was affordable?

            “For me, the case has been made in principle that an Indy Scotland would be at least slightly better off (e.g. £9bn) without those constitutional “constraints and protections” currently in place, whatever the state of GERS.”

            When you made this careful calculation, how much did you factor in for the cost of setting up Scotland’s new currency? Thanks to the Scotsman we know that just running the central bank – not filling it, just staffing it – is going to be £110 million in the first year and then £50 million every year after that.

            Now consider how many other wheels have to be reinvented.

            Also, how much did you factor in for job losses and reduction in private sector activity?

        • Me Bungo Pony says

          Maurice Bishop wrote;
          ” Their analysis was done by amateurs”

          You mean amateurs like Kevin Hague of the Chokablog site and apparent Unionist spokesman for all things GERS? A man who has no credentials in the fields of economics and national finance to back his elevation to this prominence. A man who, despite this, is forever being trotted out by unionists as some sort of guru we should all be in awe of, even when he is debating against some of the most eminent people on the planet in those fields who disagree with him?

          I don’t know who the “amateurs” are you allude to, but they cannot be any more “amateurish” than the owner of a pet supply company with too much spare time on his hands.

          • Maurice Bishop says

            No, I mean amateurs who started with a preconceived conclusion then did “analysis” of data they don’t understand to support that conclusion.

            Kevin Hauge doesn’t produce GERS. It is compiled by professional statisticians in accordance with accepted norms.

            Kevin Hauge is merely the man who points out that the separatists themselves used to say that GERS “is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances” – Independence White Paper, page 67.

          • Me Bungo Pony says

            “Authoritative” is no admission of accuracy Maurice. It was only “authoritative” because it was the ONLY publication on Scotland’s finances. You can write a book on any subject you like and it will instantly become the “authoritative” publication if it is the ONLY one, no matter how inaccurate it is. A key distinction that unionists are keen to ignore.

          • Maurice Bishop says

            “Authoritative” is not a synonym for “only” or “sole”. It means that the thing being referred to is universally regarded as the last word.

            Which is what you used to say about GERS, back when it seemed to support your case.

  8. Conrad Hughes says

    One of the most problematic things for me about GERS is that the process has been constructed in such a way that the most basic first step of sanity-checking cannot be done: there is no GERE for England. If there were, then one might expect that we could add up GERS, GERW(ales), GERN(orthern)I(reland) [for some reason NI doesn’t seem to use that acronym though] and “GERE” to see that the figures all add up to match UK public sector net borrowing. Failing that, we can only infer England’s net fiscal balance by subtracting “GERNI”, GERS, GERW from UK PSNB. The last year I can find GERNI/GERS/GERW for is 2013-14 (no NI data for 2014-16 and no Wales data for 2015-16). GERNI/GERS/GERW totalled £36.4bn deficit in 2013-14; UK PSNB was £102.6bn, implying that 16% of the UK population (S/W/NI) incurred 37% of UK deficit, while 84% of the population, England, only incurred 63% of UK deficit.

    What that means is that the “regions” were incurring deficit at three times the rate per capita that England is. The limited data from 2014-15 and 2015-16 suggest this picture hasn’t changed. Such a claim demands comment, investigation and explanation, and I’ve not seen anyone attempt to provide such.

    Why are Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales such total economic basket cases compared to England, driving up our national debt at three times the rate?

    • Maurice Bishop says

      “Why are Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales such total economic basket cases compared to England, driving up our national debt at three times the rate?”

      Nicola Sturgeon explains Scotland’s deficit in this video:

      I can boil it down to a single word: geography.

      • Conrad Hughes says

        Costs of public services go up in very dense urban areas, as well as in very sparse rural ones; the studies I’ve seen show typical variations of 10-15%. Looking at population density maps of the UK it’s not clear that Scotland (or Wales, or NI) is so much different from England that you’d see that 10-15% across the board, which is pretty much what’s required to explain the difference between a putative “GERE” and GERS/W/NI. Geography may well be a significant factor, but without an English version of GERS to make that comparison, I’m uncomfortable with a set of documents that presents all of the regions as basket cases while not telling us anything about the motherland — as the unknown x in the equation, it could hide anything.

        Obviously in the conception of GERS as a weapon against devolution, this is unsurprising — but today one might hope that we’d move on: it seems only reasonable to do the sums for the fourth member of the union.

        • Maurice Bishop says

          You’ll want to take it up with the FM, then – geography was her explanation.

          GERS isn’t “a weapon against devolution”. It is “the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances” – Independence White Paper, page 67.

          • Conrad Hughes says

            Come on, twisting people’s words gets us nowhere.

            I said GERS was *conceived* as a weapon (see, e.g. ). My point merely being that given that origin, the absence of a “GERE” is unsurprising, but something we now could and should remedy.

          • Maurice Bishop says

            It doesn’t matter what you say about what GERS used to be. For the last 10 years it has been the responsibility of the SNP, who could have changed it however they want. You want us to believe:
            1) that the SNP have presided over a the annual production of a massive piece of fraud; and
            2) we should all vote for the the SNP.

          • Conrad Hughes says

            Your “ability” to focus on what’s been said is … interesting.

            When did I suggest voting for the SNP?

  9. Joseph MELLON says

    My (subjective) summary of the discussion:
    – GERS figures are tendentious and do not show what the deficit of an independent Scotland would be
    – that said the GERS figures indicate that the Scottish economy currently generates only modest tax revenues when oil revenues are removed
    – Scotland requires high levels of government expenditure because of economic and social weakness and geography
    – the Scottish government could do better in analyzing and presenting the state of the Scottish economy, but is currently unable or unwilling to do so

    My take from that is:
    – the Scottish economy has some strengths but is performing badly
    – Scotland also has social problems with deep roots which will require long term programs to solve

    The ‘Unionists’ think the above means that Scotland needs English money to survive, and independence would be a disaster.
    The ‘Independentistas’ (of whom I am one) think that it is the union that has caused these problems and remaining in the union would be a disaster.

    • Maurice Bishop says

      How has the union caused those problems? When the FM went on the Sunday Politics, she said the deficit was created by the high cost of providing services in Scotland given that 1 in 5 Scots live in a rural or remote community.

      It is easy for you to say that after independence we’ll solve all these problems. But can you explain how, given that after independence there will be even less money available? Because independence is going to force the government of Scotland to take on all kinds of new spending just to reinvent wheels. For example, thanks to The Scotsman, we know that just running the central bank – not filling it, just staffing it – is going to be £110 million in the first year and then £50 million every year after that. Now think about all the cost of filling its coffers, and all the other things that will have to do to give Scotland all the apparatus of state.

      The only beneficiary of that spending is Central Belt landlords.

      And that is before we factor in the capital flight that is sure to happen.

  10. Joseph MELLON says

    > How has the union caused those problems?

    The problems are there. Scotland has been in the Union 300 years.
    The problems of the weakness of the Scottish economy exist since about 1920,
    and have not been adequately addressed, indeed under Thatcher were made worse.

    > It is easy for you to say that after independence we’ll solve all these problems.

    But I didn’t say that “all problems would be solved magically”: I said that Scotland would have a chance to solve the problems which the union in 100 years of (not) trying has not or cannot. I suspect the UK as a total entity doesn’t give much of a damn about Scotland’s economy or social problems.

    In fact an independent Scotland would have a very difficult set of task to undo the ‘Union Bonus’ and solve its problems. It could, and almost certainly occasionally would -go wrong. BUT – looking at Scotland’s peers, and verturing a little self confidence it might, should, could go very well indeed.

    • Joseph MELLON says

      …indeed one of the pro Union contributors explicitly advanced the argument “Scotland is stagnant and declining” as the reason to stay IN the union!

      You also Maurice seem to follow that argument…

      When you look at: Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and even the Baltic states…
      very definitely not declining or stagnant – why do you accept “Stagnant and declining, needing handouts” as an acceptable future for Scotland?

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