The GERS fundamentalists

The Unionists have got a new phrase, “GERS deniers”. It’s a nice wee soundbite which attempts to equate people who view the GERS figures with suspicion, and people who deny the reality of climate change. But as ever, our Unionist friends are not comparing like with like. Climate change is based upon multiple scientific works and studies. There is abundant data from many different and independent sources. The GERS figures (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland), are a single data set, and moreover they’re a single data set which relies very heavily on figures produced by a body which it is scarcely conspiracy theoristish to suspect may not be entirely neutral in the Scottish debate – the UK Treasury. The difference between denying climate change and denying GERS is simple. One is science, the other is politics. Only a fool is sceptical about a scientific reality. Only a fool isn’t sceptical about a political claim.

The GERS figures were instituted in the early 1990s by the then Scottish Secretary of State, the Conservative Iain Lang, as a means of providing the Tory government with ammunition to use against those campaigning for a Scottish parliament. According to a leaked memo, Lang wanted GERS as a tool to “undermine” the opposition. The figures were designed to show Scotland’s deficit, which could then be spun as a fiscal transfer from England to Scotland. Their purpose was political from the very beginning. That’s the opposite of science. Science seeks data and then develops a theory to account for that data. GERS starts off with the theory of an English subsidy to Scotland and then seeks data to account for that theory. It’s anti-science. It’s politics.

Unionists want us to accept GERS uncritically and without any rigorous examination of the methodology used to produce the figures which are presented in the newspaper headlines. They’re the only figures which exist, we keep getting told. And this would be true. However that’s all the more reason to examine the way in which those figures are produced and the data collected with a critical and sceptical eye. It is scientifically illiterate to accept without criticism a single data set, all the more so when that data set is the only data which exists and it’s data which relies on estimates made by people who can reasonably be suspected of having a vested interest in a particular outcome. It’s a bit like saying, “Well we don’t actually know how life developed on Earth, but we do have the account in Genesis, so let’s go with that. Now give me one tenth of your income. The bible tells us to tithe too.” And then you call evolutionary scientists Genesis deniers and claim that they’re a cult.

The claim is frequently made by GERS fundamentalists that the figures are Scottish government figures. But that’s not exactly true. The Scottish government has a legal obligation to produce the GERS figures, but the statisticians of the Scottish government have no means of knowing how much is spent on non-devolved matters in Scotland or (allegedly) spent on Scotland’s behalf outwith Scotland. The statisticians of the Scottish government know nothing about say, how much of defence expenditure, or the expenditure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is allocated to Scotland. For those figures they rely entirely upon information supplied to them by the UK Treasury.

Imagine a bank robber who rushes out of a bank and then puts a gun to the head of a passing motorist and forces them to drive him away. Saying that the Scottish government is responsible for the GERS figures is a bit like saying the motorist is responsible for the bank robbery. Unionist analyses of GERS want us to focus solely on the actions of the motorist, and not on the actions of the bank robber. That motorist owes a fortune to the bank you know. How are they ever going to repay that huge deficit?

The paroxysms of GERS denier accusations this week are because a proper economist had the temerity to examine the figures with a sceptical eye and found them wanting. According to the economist Richard Murphy, with the exception of local government income there are no reliable figures at all for Scottish revenues, and figures for Scottish expenditure are seriously deficient. He points out that it is normal for economic figures to rely on certain estimates, but it’s not normal for 25 out of 26 sets of income figures in a set of accounts to be based on estimates and consumer surveys. He says, “Estimates may be a part of financial life but this is ridiculous.” The SNP MP George Kerevan, who was a lecturer in economics before entering politics, likewise believes that the GERS figures underestimate Scottish revenues.

Unionists want the GERS figures to do something that not even Iain Lang wanted them to do. They want to use the GERS figures in order to make claims about the financial position of an independent Scotland. GERS tells us, in theory, about the financial situation of Scotland within the UK, but independence means we do things differently. In the most recent GERS figures, revenues from the North Sea oil industry were a paltry few million, but Norway continued to extract billions from its oil sector even though it had been hit by the same decline in oil prices. The difference is due to different tax regimes and regulatory regimes. Unionists assume that Scotland would continue to indulge the oil corporations in the same way as the UK Treasury. That assumption is made across the board by the GERS fundamentalists, their vision of an independent Scotland is one which spends and raises revenues exactly the same way the UK does just now. That’s an obvious nonsense.

According to the financial services company Deloitte, “GERS data is produced for Scotland as part of the UK – it does not model scenarios for an independent Scotland in which the Scottish Government would be enabled to make its own fiscal choices.” And that’s the whole point of independence, to do things differently. To do things better for the people of Scotland.

The GERS fundamentalists make some even more outlandish assumptions. Literally outlandish. According to the GERS figures Scotland spends some £3.3 billion on defence which it allocates to Scotland. It is universally agreed that the amount spent within Scotland on defence does not approach this figure, most estimates place defence expenditure within Scotland at around £1.7 billion, a figure which includes spending on Faslane. Much of the remainder is spent in the south of England where the UK has concentrated the MoD offices and its military bases. No independent country in the world spends over half of its defence expenditure in someone else’s country, especially not a small country like Scotland which has no pretensions to Empire 2.0. In an independent Scotland defence expenditure would be spent within Scotland, and so boost Scottish revenues accordingly by generating economic activity within Scotland.

Another large contributor to the GERS deficit is Scotland’s contribution to interest payments on the UK’s eye-watering national debt. We don’t know what the national debt of an independent Scotland would be. What we do know is that there is no financial institution anywhere in the world which possesses a piece of paper saying “IOU squillions of quid, xx Scotland”. The debt is legally the responsibility of the UK government, and during the first independence referendum the UK Treasury issued a statement to reassure the markets making it clear that it would continue to be legally responsible for that debt. If the rUK wants to be the continuator state to the existing UK, then they likewise continue with the debt.

That doesn’t mean that Scotland will start life as an independent nation debt free, although Ireland did exactly that. What it means is that when Scotland becomes independent it will only take on such debt as pertains to the share of the joint UK assets that it receives, and that will be subject to negotiation between Scotland and the rUK after a Yes vote in a referendum. No assets, no debt. It’s that simple. There are certain UK assets that Scotland has no interest in, such as our share of the energy and other resources of the Falkland Islands.  Not taking our share of those assets reduces any debt we might need to take on.

The reality is that GERS tells us next to nothing about the financial situation of an independent Scotland. But even if we were to take the GERS figures at face value, they still add up to something that smells pretty fishy. According to the GERS figures, Scotland has a deficit of £14.8 billion a year. The equivalent figures for Wales and Northern Ireland allocate deficits of £14.7 billion and £9.16 billion respectively. Yet the entire annual deficit for the whole of the UK is £67 billion. The GER figures would have us believe that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a combined 16% of the UK population between them, are responsible for a whopping 58% of the entire UK annual deficit. That figure alone ought to raise suspicions that the methodology of GERS is suspect and invite a critical examination with a sceptical eye. But Unionists don’t want us to do that. They want us to accept Scotland’s supposed £14.8 billion deficit as if it were holy writ.

So let’s do just that. Let’s accept for the purposes of the argument that Scotland does indeed have a deficit that’s considerably larger than that of Greece. Yet Greece doesn’t have Scotland’s resources. Greece isn’t a net exporter of energy. Greece doesn’t have oil, gas, a massive renewable energy potential, the hundreds of years worth of coal that Scotland has agreed to leave in the ground. Scotland is so rich in energy that we can afford to have a national conversation about fracking and whether or not we want it. We don’t need the energy from fracking ourselves. We can afford to leave it in the ground. Most countries don’t have that luxury.  Energy is the motor of any economy, and Scotland possesses it in abundance.

Unlike Greece Scotland has fertile soil and no shortage of water. We have enormous fish stocks. We are more or less self sufficient in food, what we import we make up for in exports. We have a tourism industry worth £11 billion annually, a whisky industry worth almost £4 billion. We have a computer games industry, four of the top 100 universities in the world, and a highly educated English speaking population. We have advantages we just take for granted, like the fact that what passes for a national disaster in Scotland is the national football team, we are spared the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis that strike less fortunate countries – like Greece. Those are disasters that mean entire towns and cities have to be rebuilt. Nothing like that happens in Scotland. This is a lucky country.

But it doesn’t end there. We are in a geopolitically stable and quiet part of the globe. No one wants to invade us, no one has territorial claims on us, and we have no territorial claims on anyone else. Not even Berwick. We are that rare beast, a country that no one hates except David Starkey, and since pretty much everyone hates David Starkey that’s fair enough. Unlike Greece we have government institutions which actually function. Ordinary people pay tax, unlike Greece where tax evasion is a national sport. And we have impeccable democratic credentials, to the extent that we were able to hold a national debate on independence and the only casualty of the independence movement was Jim Murphy’s egg stained shirt. Let’s face it. If you wanted to list the ingredients for a peaceful, prosperous, stable, democratic country, you’d list what Scotland has. And yet, according to the GERS fundamentalists, Scotland is an economic basket case which is worse off than Greece. That’s not an argument for remaining under the rule of those whose economic mismanagement has produced this lamentable situation, it’s an argument for running away from the clowns who have created this mess as fast as our hairy little Caledonian legs can carry us.

The fundamental truth that the GERS fundamentalists refuse to accept is that either the GERS figures do not represent an accurate picture of the financial position of an independent Scotland, or that their beloved Westminster has been criminally negligent in its economic management of this country. They can’t have it both ways.

The clowns of Westminster show no sign that they are aware of the damage they’ve done and are now intent on taking us into the financial catastrophe of Brexit where things are only going to get even worse. The question facing Scotland is how do we get out of this mess we are currently in. Do we trust in the selfish arrogant fools who caused the mess in the first place and who are bent on continuing the damage and making it worse, or do we trust in our own skills, our own talents, and our own abilities. Do we think it will be easier to repair the damage in an isolationist Brexit Britain, or in an independent Scotland with full access to the European single market and the trade deals that enables?  Do we trust those who don’t care about Scotland, or do we trust those who do? That ought to be an easy question to answer, except if you’re a GERS fundamentalist.

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0 thoughts on “The GERS fundamentalists

  1. Just one correction – the rUK seeking to retain recognition of existing UK agreements means it is the Continuator state not the Successor state. Scotland and rUK are both Successor states,

    • I’m not so sure about this having to be corrected.
      The rUK would consist of what is left of the UK and so would continue to be legally responsible for its debt. The rUK would not have left the UK and thus would be the Continuator state.

      • Saor Alba, without Scotland there is no United KINGDOM! Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland was a kingdom so the title dies! It was only the 2 Kingdoms that united.

      • Whether you are considered as the continuator state is not up to the state itself. It’s basically a legal definition for how other countries see you. The most important step will be getting the UN to ratify this status.

        This is done in the General Assmbly, so no Veto. A lot of countries will see it as a chance for Security Council reform (by effectively being able to remove one of the Permanent seats forcing the discussion onto the table)

        But to be considered as a continuator state, you are burdened by acting as one – which means all the debt, all the pension obligations, a hell of a lot of responsibility. It strengthens the hand of Scotland’s negotiators too, for example, Russia sought and got acceptance letters from all the other former Soviet states to back its pursuit of continuator status. How much would rUK pay for that letter from us…

  2. Lots of folk never get to the truth because they are preoccupied with trying to calm down their jumpy, nervous wallets. When indy2 comes and I go to vote I’m leaving my wallet at home so that I can consider, very calmly and at least on equal terms, the value of the other important things in this life.

    • Finance has never been in my mind when considering independence. I want to live in a normal, grown up, independent country that takes responsibility for its own affairs and blames no one for any of its failings. A nation where I’ll no longer feel like a second class citizen with no voice in parliament. I have no doubt in our ability to manage and even prosper.

  3. Great to see the GERS figures sliced open. This is the type of information we need as we approach the second Independence Ref. Thank you Paul.

  4. I tried searching on-line today for “England’s deficit” or similar. Up popped ‘UK’ on every result. So I told the search to omit ‘uk’ results, and it came back with ‘patriots’, which is presumably references to the American Football team. So I told the search to omit ‘football’, ‘cricket’ and so on.

    Still searching. If it’s not sports-related, it is pre 1707, or the ‘England’ usage is badly referenced to mean ‘UK’.

    Anyone care to find “England’s deficit” ?

    • Scotland 15bn, wales 15bn, NI 10 bn. UK 75bn. These are all published estimates. As far as I can see no equivalent direct figure for england.

      But by subtracting the celtic ring from UK figure you get 35bn for England.

      So we have the curious circumstance where it would appear 15% of UK population create over half the national deficit.

      • It’s a strange conundrum, isn’t it?

        On the one hand we have Westminster governments allowing 15% of the population to rack up more than half the debt, without telling them of it.

        On the other hand we have Westminster governments allowing 15% of the population to rack up more than half the debt, without being criticised for gross mismanagement of the budgets of said 15%.

        Something is very fishy.

        And on the third hand (we can do this, since we’re into fishy accounts, we can have extra hands) we have no discernible sources for “England’s deficit”.

        Fishier than Baldrick’s apple crumble.

  5. I have been collecting GERS ‘papers’ for some time to use in educating the open minded. Yours are now part of a good war chest. Thanks Paul.

  6. Pingback: The GERS fundamentalists | speymouth

  7. And here’s more evidence.

    EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland
    Yesterday at 15:58 ·
    Fraser Stewart
    UK Population – 64.1 million (100%)
    Scottish Population – 5.295 million (8.26%)
    Welsh Population – 3.063 million (4.78%)
    Northern Irish Population – 1.811 million (2.83%)
    English Population – 53.931 million (84.13%)
    Total UK deficit – £69billion
    Scotlands deficit (according to GERS) – £15billion
    Wales deficit (according to GERW) – £14.7billion
    NI deficit (according to NICVA) – £10billion
    Englands deficit (based on deductions) – £29.3billion
    Scotlands deficit per head – £2832.86
    Wales deficit per head – £4799.22
    NI deficit per head – £5521.81
    Englands deficit per head – £543.29
    According to the statistics (based on what we’re led to believe). 15.87% of the UK population (scot/wal/ni) contributes 57.54% to the UK deficit, while England with 84.13% of the UK population only contributes 42.46% to the UK deficit.
    According to the statistics, Scotland contributes 5.2x more per head to the deficit figure than in England per head. Wales contibutes 8.8x more per head than in England and Northern Ireland contributes a staggering 10.2x more per head to the deficit figure than in England per head.
    Ask yourselves this serious question. IS THAT REALLY PLAUSIBLE!?!?!
    LikeShow More ReactionsCommentShare

  8. As I have been saying for ages, GERS is what the name says it is: Government Expenditure and Revenues for Scotland, it is a record of the policy decisions made at all levels of government. It tells us nothing about the wider economy or our ability, as a country, to afford current, or indeed, different levels of pubic spending.

    The comparison is always made with the rest of the UK, we spend more than rUK so we must be overspending. We raise less revenues than rUK so we must not be rich enough. Even people who you would expect to know better fall for it, such as the former SNP leader Gordon Wilson writing that we should get spending down to levels appropriate for a small country before we push for Independence.

    Yet if we widen out the comparisons and look at the rest of the EU we spend less as a proportion of GDP than the EU-28 average. According to GERS, Scotland’s public sector expenditure accounts for 43.7% of GDP. Eurostat tells us that public spending across the whole of the EU is 47.3%. Remember that is the whole of the EU and includes the former Soviet bloc countries whose economies were impoverished by decades of Communism and the supposed failing economies of Southern Europe. The average for the 19 eurozone countries is higher at 48.5%.That represents spending 11% higher than that of Scotland.

    It is only in comparison with rUK that Scotland’s spending appears high and I doubt there is anyone who could point to an area of public expenditure anywhere else in the UK and say, with justification, “That is overfunded.” The idea that Scotland’s public sector spending is too high simply does not stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny.

    So if the deficit is not down to overspending, what is the cause? Well, there’s two sides to a deficit, expenditure and revenues. If spending isn’t too high then revenues must be too low. A look at the same sources show us that the EU-28 average public sector revenues amount to 44.9% of GDP while in Scotland they represent just 34.3%. With revenues barely above three-quarters of the EU average is it any wonder we can’t afford even the levels of spending that we currently have? If you put the EU-28 average into the GERS calculation Scotland shows a budget surplus of over £4 billion.

    So, why then are Scotland’s revenues so low? As GERS shows us, 83.5% of revenues were directly controlled by the UK government (much of the rest is council tax). Even with the extra devolved revenues of the Scotland Act 2016 that only falls to 70%. The simple fact is that the cause of the GERS deficit is the inability, and/or unwillingness, of the UK government to raise sufficient revenues to properly fund pubic services. If you want evidence just look at the UK’s own public sector deficit, itself trailing only behind those of Greece and Spain. (Portugal was marginally above the UK but it was reported recently that their anti-austerity government has significantly reduced their deficit) The UK would not meet the convergence criteria for the euro either.

    Opponents of Independence will claim that higher revenues will mean massive tax increases. Paying more tax is not necessarily a bad thing. If I get a pay rise I pay more tax, when I spend my increase I pay more VAT, the business I spend it with pays more tax on their increased profits and so it goes. After all, two of the three unionist parties have been clamouring for the Scottish Government to increase income tax to put more money into public spending. Anyone who has complained about the tories’ ill-conceived and counter-proctive “austerity” could, logically, surely have no objection to reversing that policy. Isn’t the prospect of decades more of tory government and the cuts that come with it one of the prime arguments for Independence?

    I woud also ask what is the unionists’ plan to reduce the deficit if we remain in the UK. With the limited powers over revenues that the Scottish Government possesses it is difficult to see how it could be achieved that way, so what is left? Either serious cuts to public spending or just carry on spending the same, (or, if we follow the calls of Labour, increase spending) and hope the UK government keeps making up the shortfall. Neither choice seems very satisfactory and assuming that the UK government will not implement major cuts to spending, including the devolved settlement, as the economy suffers the effects of Brexit, is naive in the extreme. Realistically the only option to reduce the deficit is independence.

    • A great read, Gail.
      The GERS figures are of course fiction, skewered to infer, or rather, imply, that Scotland is a financial basket case.
      The £15 billion deficit/ 10% of GDP nonsense is trotted out regularly by the Dead Tree Scrollers, BBC PQ political commentators, and the Vituperative Vixens, Dugdale, Davidson and that big girl’s blouse Rennie.
      They are compiled using data supplied by HM Treasury, HMRC, DWP, ONS, OBR, who start with the answer, Scotland is a subsidy junkie basket case, then fill in the Guesstimates to arrive at that conclusion. Of course the document is a pile of lies. It’s designed to put Scotland back in its box.
      They are deliberately set out in such a complicated way to discourage scrutiny, but to provide Scotland Haters like the Yoon Politicians and especially the BBC with a Scotland the poor man’s Greece, propaganda headline.
      In the forthcoming campaign, I’d urge every Independence spokesperson, politician, and pro Independence member of any tedious TV/Radio ‘fixed’ debate, to laugh out loud and raucously every time Tomkins or Baillie spews out the GERS lies. It is a sick joke at best, suppression of a population by lies, at worst.
      There is no such thing as GERE, setting out England’s expenditure and revenue, is there? For good reason. It would be impossible to extract England-only financial information from the complex network of commerce, finance, public spending, and revenue, to arrive at any meaningful totals.
      But somehow, miraculously GERS can be calculated?
      I know the SNP Government has a team working on all the mantraps from the last Independence Campaign: Defence, Currency, the EU, and Scotland’s economy post UK.
      Let’s hope they nail this GERS trash.
      If I see or hear another BBC finance correspondent telling me that we have a £15 billion black hole/10% of GDP disaster on the Independence horizon, the TV screen may not survive.
      Laugh at them when they mindlessly churn out this rubbish. Laugh at the dim wee brainwashed souls.

    • PS, Gail.
      I have yet to hear one YOON politician screaming blue murder as DWP move thousands of jobs from Scotland to a brand new centre in Crawley (that’s Down There in the SE of England) or protest the closure of Job Centres in Scotland. Tens of Millions sucked out of the Scottish economy.
      Not a Dickie burd from the London managed puppets..
      Why? Because bad news for Scotland is good news for the Yoons.
      Neil Findlay, Jackie Baillie, Jenny Marra, defenders of the People of Scotland?
      Aye, right.
      These people are dangerous. They would destroy Scotland for a collaborator’s wage.
      And our MSM gleefully report it.
      They disgust me. No Mr and Mrs Nice Guy this time.

    • Absolutely Gail. That is a good starter on questions to the Unionists.
      “What is your plan for …………?” Etc etc.
      Answer, usually ……. No plan.

  9. Pingback: The GERS fundamentalists | dondeeflugs

  10. Completely agree but why do the SNP collude and publish these fake statistics. If we play by their rules we will lose.

  11. I think the phrase ‘evolution deniers’ came into fashion before ‘climate deniers,’ but they are both minted from the same braindead American cloth, mental and linguistic STDs that deform thought today. Even on this side of the pond, tragically and disgustingly. Far too much credence is given to America now, to the point where its idiotic phrases and thoughtless distorted middle class collegiate thoughts seep into our universities and daily discourse. Little America indeed.

    Not that this has anything to do with GERS, mind you Carry on. Rant over. 🙂

  12. Well done you Sir, you’ve done a considerable amount of research on this piece and presented it in your usual inimitable way, with a jagged edged humour.
    Speaking to Mr Murphy I was very encouraged when after suggesting that he’d blown his chance of him ever receiving a Knighthood or bauble he said “I’m not interested now, as I wasn’t interested when John MacDonnell offered me it back then”… It’s comforting to know that some things can’t be bought 🙂

  13. Interesting. I don’t actually mind folk using GERS provided they are given the proper context.

    Ceteris paribus, will Scotland’s notional debt shrink or expand from remaining part of the UK? Well, of course it will worsen, since Westminster continues its indebtedness, giving Scotland an even larger sum of debt!

    Solution: remove Scotland from these circumstances! Bring on indy!

    See what I did? I just showed how the UK is bad for Scotland!

    This fight will need backbone. Let’s use GERS.

  14. Be careful with definitions here. Two lots of ‘balance’ are bandied about willy nilly re GERS, and Yoons of course use the worse of the two. Yessers should use the proper one as explained below.

    “According to the GERS figures, Scotland has a deficit of £14.8 billion a year.”

    That is NOT the ‘deficit’ as understood internationally. That is the “Net Fiscal Balance 2015-2016” (incl oil) which includes capital expenditure which is normally funded by borrowing long term and not from revenue.

    The “Current Budget Balance 2015-16” IS the internationally accepted ‘deficit’ and was in fact £12.7 bn (incl oil) and 8.1% of GDP

  15. Looked at from another perspective, the greatest GERS deniers are unionists themselves.

    GERS is a snapshot of the economy of a Scotland in a political union. A union where the central government, not the devolved government, controls the very levers of that economy. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of stewardship, now is it? In fact it seems not unreasonable to me that the only logical and plausible conclusion to reach regarding the current stewards of the economy is that they are unremittingly pish at the day job.

    A simple question for unionist politicians to answer really. Just who controls the economic levers of the UK?

    If the Scottish economy is a basket case then perhaps a change of management is just what the doctor ordered? 🙂

  16. One of the oddities of GERS can be found by comparing any institution called “The National …”. or “The British” If it is, for example the British Library, it is an all UK institution that us Celts have to pay our 15% to. But The National Library of Wales and The National Library of Scotland, which also serve the whole world (including the UK) are “local matters”. So we pay for the whole of our local international institutions AND 15% of Englands’!

    The British Museum

    The National Gardens of Wales & Scotland v Kew.

    National galleries v THE National Gallery etc

    Because English institutions that are replicated in Wales/Scotland are British we subsidise English institutions!

  17. I have one concern about Scotlands share of oil revenues v Norways,
    STATOIL, they own thier own oil fields while UK sells them and the profit goes entirely to the oil companies,UK gets only the tax off the oil wouldnt that be an argument for renationalising the oil and creating a ‘SCOTOIL company?
    there wouldnt be a need to tax our own company and hat would reduce costs making marginal feilds, well, less marginal!

    • Worth thinking about John. There is also the possibility of running a two stream arrangement allowing existing companies to work their own fields and be taxed whilst the government does what Thatcher did not, by investing in the creation of our own national company which would be entirely responsible for untapped fields. Right now its money in the bank and Scotland has time on its side.

      Time for those who are working the current fields and licenses to have a long hard think about who they’d support in the next campaign.

      How many lost their jobs in the oil industry in the last two and a half years? Where was the broad shoulders of the UK government when they were needed? Looking after their precious financial services in the city as I recall. The oil sector left to the mercy of a spat in the rest of the oil producing world.

      It’s not like the expertise and infrastructure isn’t out there to take advantage of. I’m also damn sure that much like Norway and its personal investment in its own resource, our government wouldn’t abandon those it was directly responsible for.

      • Macart, it is not outwith the bounds that we go into partnership with Norway’s Statoil when we are independent, to manage current fields, exploration, and licenses for and development of new fields?
        There is enormous potential for Independent Scotland to do everything differently.
        Can’t wait.

    • This is a key point in this debate because the bottom line is that it’s all about the bottom line. All those intent on dying in a ditch over preservation of the Union are really interested in is the pound signs which come with exploitation of resources for short term profits for their Corporate handlers and sponsors. The useful idiots who support this are merely icing on the cake. Nothing more than gullible cannon fodder who are incapable of recognising this fact.

      The financial and other benefits from Norway ‘s oil and gas resources go back to benefit the wider society, whereas in the UK the exact opposite is the case. It is no accident or coincidence that the chemical company Ineos, which is one of the major players in fracking, relocated it’s HQ back to the UK from Switzerland at the back end of last year several months after the EU refurendum vote.

      You can bet your house and your pension that they have a cast iron promise from bought and paid for politicians in Westminster and some local Unitary Authorities, not all of which sit on the Tory Benches, that come what may they will be allowed to do what they want with no competition from sustainable energy sources such as, for example, geo thermal energy from the vast amounts of water sitting in old mine workings because support for sustainable energy is being cut and withdrawn costing many thousands of jobs.

      They will have been promised a favourable tax regime on the back of a hard Brexit by Westminster politicians along with a slice of what lies below Scotland as well as the North of England under the Bowland Hodder field. This is not democracy at work it is theft and piracy on a grand scale which makes all those supporting such policies, including Unionism, complicit.

      The comparison, by these dishonest thieves and vagabonds, of the Scottish economy with that of Greece is laughable when considered alongside the fact that areas of England like South Yorkshire had a GDP per head of population lower than Greece from the year 2001 to 2010 directly after receiving around a £1billion in EU Objective One funding which mostly got siphoned off by and for the benefit of the usual suspects.

      WGD is spot on in recognising the GERS figures as having nothing to do with science based o jective analysis. Like the vast majority of the so called economics profession those compiling this model pre assume what they aim to deduce. They go straight from hypothesis to conclusion with jo robust analysis to contradict the pre determined outcome they want.

      If one of these carpet bagger snake oil salesmen turned up on the doorstep of your average unthinking Unionist they would not give them the time of day. Yet not a single one of them posesses the basic honesty and integrity to admit to themselves that their behaviour, attitude, position and approach is based on nothing more substantial than that of a partisan crowd on the football terraces baying like morons for someone to take it up the arse.

      This is not serious citizenship. It is instead nothing but raw tribalism which is being used by unscrupulous politicians and egotistical hangers on who crave attention and are quite prepared to make things up about others using faked information, such as fake twitter accounts as has occurred with the pathetic Kevin Hague (detailed on Wings) to get that attention.

  18. They share something with religious fundamentalism

    “Thinking is hard. Remember when a guy in a suit got up on a stage and told you what to think?”

    The GERs fundamentalists “look to their betters for guidance” / “the written word must not be challenged” / “listen to the toll free number and send your donation” and most important of all “kill the heretics”

  19. Masterly piece by WGD followed by possibly the most intelligent sequence of comments it has been my pleasure to read. The very opposite of what I gather is referred to as GIGO.

  20. Just a further thought on these figures in terms of their meaning when put in the CONTEXT of the UK as a whole.

    There are two possibilities here

    1. GERS is essentially correct picture (the unionist argument)
    In this case the overall UK picture of the three celtic nations having improvisionedd weak economies presents very a poor picture of the union. In essence what it shows is a highly centralised economy which is dominated by England also I suspect internally within England by London and south-east. For Scotland to prosper we need to escape what the union has become

    2. The current independence argument is that GERS figures are very questionable and Scottish economy is better than that. We meet the challenge head-on and are now being called GERS-deniers. I think we need to be slightly cleverer than this in the way we argue.

    For me I think that every time I now hear about GERS, I will immediately seek to put them in the their UK context. A good question is “do you really think it is realistic that 15% of the population produce 50-60% of the UK deficit?”.
    But then if it was accepted as plausible and we take GERS and the figures for NI and Wales at face value – What is that saying about how the UK is working for all its people? It paints a poor picture of the UK with the celtic fringe having weakened economies that urgently require to beregenerated. There is no plan within the UK to regenerate the economic margins – the clearest way to restore the Scottish economy is through independence.

    Suddenly – like Gail does above – GERS becomes a reason for independence. Putting them in their UK context is enormously helpful in revealing GERS for what it is.

    Personally, I think it is probably a bit of both (GERS not realistic, but also evidence of a UKl economy which is highly centralised). But either way – it points us firmly towards indy as the best option for the future weel of Scotland.

  21. Oucha wowcha, Paul! Brilliant stuff and chock full of little nuggets we can all use on the doorsteps when the time comes. And some great comments too. Glad I tuned in. I feel a tweet coming on…

  22. Nicely researched article Paul. Thank you again.

    Even before I ready this, one thing that always struck me when these numbers were bandied about was that it is great ammunition for the anti-unionists.

    Unionists are as likely to listen to a rational discourse such as this as “Foreign Born Boris Johnson” is likely to listen to a description that WTO rules will kill off the English car industryjust like unionist governments killed of Bathgate and Linwood (remember them?). “False news” they will say, “political posturing”. Rationality will never be their strong point. They want buzz phrases.

    So use it against them:

    “Imagine a bus with a logo down the side ‘We send Scotland £40 million a day. Let’s fund the NHS by kicking them out’

    But by then it will be too late. They will already have taken more of what is not theirs, will have imposed their London based bigotry on us and forced us to bid farewell to our friends and family, This is our opportunity to leave on our terms before they decide to drive us out”

    Or some such.

    Of course it’s nonsense, but it uses their figures against them so they cannot argue with that and “saving money to support the NHS” is a well understood concept…

  23. Not even Berwick? Wendy Wood reclaimed Berwick for Scotland in the 1950’s by painting a white line across the middle of the Royal Tweed Bridge. Perhaps this should be part of the assets negotiation?

  24. GERS is reminiscent of the accounts of the American colonies in the 1770s. Which showed that the upkeep of garrisons, etc across the Atlantic actually *cost* Britain money. American independence was castigated as a folly by loyalists, as how would an independent United States possibly bridge the funding gap?

    So I wonder how that worked out.

  25. Once again, great article. Have shared. One thing, I don’t recall GERS being used widely last time, the yoons just saud we were too poor. I could be wrong, but now they are attempting to use GERS, this exposes it to many who would never have even heard if it before. It also means that many will be suspicious, given that the yoons have lied about everything else.

    Let’s make sure that as many as possible get to know what GERS really is, a fabrication and a ruse.

    Scotland is way more than capable of independence, economically and otherwise. It is england that will really struggle, and those in yoon politics know that, there is no question of them being innocent or ignorant of Scotland’s worth and what they have to lose. Shame, it could gave been quite a different story, still could. All the unionists in power need to do, is allow Scotland an amicable divorce, and negotiate some sharing of Scotand’s assets and resources, and vice versa.
    Pigs will fly first though.

  26. Pingback: Roundup, Sunday 26 March 2017 –

  27. “That doesn’t mean that Scotland will start life as an independent nation debt free, although Ireland did exactly that”
    Well… not really. The plan was to have an apportionment of the debt. That was in the Treaty. But, there was a small matter of Northern Ireland, and the exact boundary thereof. Because, nobody in their senses would have left the thing as it was, surely. But, the proposed land swops never happened. To get out of the mess the eventual decision was made to foregoe the debt apportionment and the land swops.
    See and a more academic discussion at

    Scotland not having a border dispute with the UK then…

  28. 1. Is it not time for badges and T-shirts: “GERS denier and proud”, “Proud GERS denier” or just “GERS denier”?

    2. The Brits can do with *their* debt as they please. We had no debt in 1707 and should return to that state/ State.

    3. Border disputes are unfortunate, but they would also be get-out-of-NATO-free cards.


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