Dugcast fae the dughoose – with Prof Richard Murphy

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This week, especially because it’s the week of GERSmas, I am delighted to be joined online by Professor Richard Murphy.  Richard is perhaps best known in Scotland for his work on the GERS figures, but he has a wealth of experience in tax policy.  He is a chartered accountant and political economist who campaigns on issues of tax avoidance and tax evasion.  He is currently a professor of International Political Economy at the University of London.

We discuss the GERS figures and how in Richard’s estimation, “GERS is CRAP – Completely Rubbish APproximations.”  He explains how he first got interested in GERS because of his interest in the way that numbers can be used to construct a political narrative, and GERS is a perfect example of this. The GERS figures are designed to show that Scotland has a deficit, and were so designed for a political purpose.  GERS compares income WITHIN Scotland to expenditure FOR Scotland. Or more precisely to expenditure which is arbitrarily assigned to Scotland.  This is not comparing like with like. 

Using a hypothetical example he explains: “If Scotland had a real deficit of 3%, and England had a real deficit of 3%, GERS would show that Scotland had a much larger deficit than England.”  He tells us how GERS is little more than a method of shovelling England’s debt onto Scotland. 

It all makes for fascinating listening, and for once we had no technical issues with the sound.  However I am having issues with embedding the file on WordPress.  Please click on the link in order to hear the podcast.  I’m trying to solve the issue, but it appears to display correctly in editing, but then doesn’t show up once the page is published. 

If you have issues with the embedded file, you can access the podcast directly by clicking on the following link : https://soundcloud.com/user-291670852/dugcast-27-08-2020-with-richard-murphy

Update : I think I’ve solved the embedding issue. However you can always access the podcast directly by clicking on the link.

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81 thoughts on “Dugcast fae the dughoose – with Prof Richard Murphy

  1. Pingback: Dugcast fae the dughoose – with Prof Richard Murphy | speymouth

    • Did Mr Wilson not mention that he was opposed to free tuition fees, during his debate with a pro-unionist blogger on Radio Scotland this week?

      For me, there’s little point in independence if we merely end up adopting UK Government policies but think it’s alright, so long as we stick a saltire flag on it.

      • Although I think Scottish independence would still be wothwhile Guybrush Threepwood because an independent Scotland with the exact same policies as Westminster would be able to change those policies by changing the MP,s without asking England.
        We wouldn’t find ourselves having to accept all those U.K. govt policies just because people in England voted for them.

      • Well, that’s self-evidently true, but hardly realistic. There is no evidence whatever – merely some feverish speculation among the ultra-pessimists (some with very dubious motives) – that this would be the case with any likely SNP government post-indy.

        But then, any government post-indy has to be elected on a platform, and we all have to accept the consequences that flow from whoever wins the popular mandate. That’s the whole point of the exercise, no…?

  2. Bravo Paul, every bit as incisive as anticipated, I do so hope he features again as he does have a wonderfully gentle/pragmatic approach to the realities of economics for us ignoramuses with a healthy regard or Scots.

  3. GERS compares income WITHIN Scotland to expenditure FOR Scotland. Or more precisely to expenditure which is arbitrarily assigned to Scotland. This is not comparing like with like.

    This is as succinct and stark a demolition of GERS as you are ever likely to encounter. Worth repeating online and (if you are the rare exception with access) in the media.

  4. A fascinating insight. This guy is on the ball. Thank you for that. It’s heartbreaking that so many Scots are unaware of or disinterested that Scotland is being abused in this way. The cringe is a terrible thing.

    Much as I am reluctant to seem critical Paul, please don’t interrupt so much in the Dugcasts. Please take a leaf out of Alex Salmond’s book – just ask literally one or two questions and let the guest speak at length without bringing in your own opinions.

  5. Pingback: Wee Ginger Dug, and me

  6. Great dugcast Paul, thoroughly enjoyed Richard Murphy. I always think that he talks a great deal of sense. I look forward to his next visit to hear what he has to say about the tax system that he has been working on.

    I often think that the FM would do a great deal better listening to Richard Murphy than Andrew Wilson, who always seems to me to be stuck in the establishment mindset and viewpoint. That’s not what I want for an Indy Scotland. New ideas for going forward, not the same as Westminster please.

    • No offence intended, but what makes you think she listens to Andrew Wilson at all, or indeed anyone does ? 🙂

      • Because she tweeted, with approval, Andrew Wilson’s article and not Richard Murphy’s?

        Seems like a logical conclusion. Adherence to the growth commission report too,,

        • Indeed a good point, and one @carolclark1 expanded on, some are seemingly more favoured than others on future visions of Scotland, but I’d urge caution in drawing conclusions from what is perceived, that direction is for an independent Scots parliament to decide.

  7. Non taken Bob. I was thinking of the Growth Commission, NS seemed to think it was a great report and still refers to it occasionally, but it did not go down well with the rest of the indy movement. Pretty tame,no currency etc. sort of mish mash the establishment as is. No real vision or prospect for the future.

    Just my wee thoughts Bob.

    • She also promoted his piece in The Times today, so looks like she is a fan and is evident that she would like us to look see – and “listen” also. See my earlier tweet above.

      • That would be the earlier tweet of the article you admit not to have read, a link that was useless anyway because it didn’t take you past the paywall so you only got a couple of paragraphs.

        I find it odd that you would link to an article that you haven’t read yourself.

        Does that mean that you “would like us to look see – and “listen” also”to an article you admit to knowing nothing about? Or is it just an excuse for a wee dig at Nicola Sturgeon?

    • Agree,
      Like his use of the black and white TV to explain the Austerity programme from a rich person’s position, worth a look on his site, a copy from a twitter thread by Tony Weston.
      I think it says that the rich like the gap between them and the poor to be as large as possible to make them even better off.

  8. That was well worth listening to, well from where I’m sitting it was but I don’t imagine many Unionists found his arguments very comforting. What Richard Murphy had to say seemed pretty straightforward, the figures given in GERS are not worth taking seriously under any circumstances.

    They are not just “best” guesses but are also totally ignorant of secondary events such as the benefits that accrue to the area where the money is actually spent. I also agree too with him that the lack of accurate data makes them pretty meaningless as a statistical model of Scotland’s economic performance as an Independent country. They do not represent in any form, the choices an Independent Scotland would make, particularly on expenditure that the UK government currently makes on our behalf before even the courtesy of asking first.

    I suppose, in a way, they do ask at every election but even when told to “get tae” by the Scottish people we are ignored anyway. A democratic deficit that is unsustainable.

    One thing I was very aware of at this year’s GERSmas was the lack of celebration and rejoicing from the usual quarters, maybe I just drowned it out but I get the distinct feeling that they are losing hope at any effect the C.R.A.P. might once have given them. It just no longer has the same effect on the general public as it might once have, no wonder Brian Taylor spelt out the truth for once in admitting that GERS was started as Tory propaganda. He had little choice as most people now know that already, thanks to expert knowledge and discussions the likes of which we have had today on the Dugcast.

    Cheers WGD and to Richard for sharing your knowledge so that we might better learn, was a great listen.

      • Then why hasn’t Katie Forbes produced a counter document to GERS that the public can see and use to convince wavering no voters. It could also be used to shoot down the likes of Marr and Neil during interviews.

        • totally agree. Ive been waiting for a rebuttal for years, who cares if its a guesstimate the SG must have some idea by how much we are looted every day

    • I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, hopefully later, but like many I read Richard’s blog and agree with a great deal that he says. Many comment about GERS not being indicative of an Independent Scotland’s finances, but in reality they aren’t a true record of Scotland’s fiscal position past or present, nor will it be long before the sheer scale Westminsters larceny becomes apparent to all, because we are going to demand that we are told.
      If Covid was bad for business and Brexit catastrophic, just how much trouble will England be in financially when Scotland votes for Independence.
      Bill Rogers didn’t seem to have any illusions ‘ when Scotland’s takes their oil you got nothing ‘.
      The Scottish Government is criticised for not making their position clear on what currency Scotland will use, but for me, they’re right to keep quite.

      • Golfnut, you are correct that it is not a true record past, present or future. It is not good enough for independence supporters/SNP to just say it will be different in an independent Scotland. GERS was, is and always will be propaganda/lies because it was designed to fulfill that function.

  9. Thanks for taking the time and effort on this Paul, it’s really appreciated. I think the economical arguments are very important, but it can be,,, difficult to engage people without the context you give it. Really good interview, with a pleasant relaxed atmosphere, very enjoyable listening.

  10. Just a thought carol but I don’t believe the Growth Commission report was written for the SNP although they commissioned it, I believe it was written for the Unionists to endlessly talk about, and they have, they’ve talked about nothing else when referring to Independence, that’s why I believe it’s nothing like what’s actually going to happen

    There’s one thing that Nicola Sturgeon isn’t, and it’s a blabbermouth, I don’t believe the FM spent all that time visiting EU officials in Brussels Norway Denmark and other places for tea and sticky buns and I don’t think Westminster thinks so either or they wouldn’t have been so petty over withdrawing Consular support for Scotland which we pay for in the hope of denying the FM access to overseas officials, in any event it didn’t work because she went anyway and had countless meetings with all sorts of people

    The 2014 referendum was handed to Westminster on a plate, they organised it, the BBC orchestrated the TV debating schedule, the newspapers were allowed access to everything they wanted before it happened, there were no independent observers of the referendum, the UK government civil service interfered directly in the releasing of information, all of these things are outwith the recommendations of UN guidelines on the conducting of referendums and not one official complaint was lodged about the breaking of every single rule of conduct by England’s Ministers, even the voting system itself was suspect but never checked

    Nicola Sturgeon can keep her mouth firmly shut, she’ll tell nobody anything because she wants to win a referendum not just hold (a glorious failure of) one, nor does she want to become an MP or an MSP or a Baroness afterwards with nice soft landing pensions, she wants to be Scotland’s first Independent FM or PM or Premier, or whatever name that’s decided it’s going to be

  11. Every now and again you come across someone who explains big joined up stuff and knows what they are talking about, Richard Murphy is one of them

  12. Great dugcast. 🙂

    Can’t help but agree on the conclusions re: Brexit and society. Well said by both Prof. Murphy and yourself.

    As for GERS? CRAP is the bestest acronym EVER!

  13. Just watched Kate Forbes trying to explain deficits to some idiot interviewer, who laughed when telling her the deficit would be even higher in an Indy Scotland. I hope she kicked him in the nuts off camera.

  14. Robert the truth – more like Robert the Liar. Never hounded Craig Murray.

    I did pull Craig Murray up when he wrongly accused me of agreeing that Manny Singh should be charged and lumped me in with others who held that view. Craig, like the gentleman that Robert the liar will never be, subsequently agreed that he had got it wrong and apologised. Something that more people could do with following his example.

    Then, as now, I still hold the view that it was a disgrace for an SNP controlled council to do this to an organiser of an independence march.

    • I worked for that council for over 30 years so I am well aware how things work there.The Snp council didnt do anything to him he broke the rules and was reported to police by officials who deal with these things. Councillors make policy and officials implement it according to policy Police gave advice to council on timing of that march. It was same process as any other march. He was charged and convicted through judicial process which the council were not involved with. You cannot have special dispensation for Indy march organisers otherwise the knuckledraggers in the Orange Order would do what they like too. Not being able to taking a curfew because he works at night is ludicrous he can working durjng the day as loads of taxi drivers do. Martyr complex methinks !!

      • Eilidh, as you seem to know so much about this matter why was the start time changed so late in the day when it was previously agreed to be the same time as per the previous year? A precedent was set in the previous year when there was no trouble at the later start time.

        Did you march at the earlier time Eilidh? Should all who marched at the later time be referred to the police?

        I don’t know Manny Singh and have no idea why he should refuse the initial sentence – perhaps he thought by pleading guilty he would get a lighter punishment. Anyway, that is not my point.

        It is SNP policy to reduce the number of short term prison sentences. 72 days in prison for starting a peaceful march a couple of hours later. I am amazed at any independence supporter thinking this is just fine and dandy.

        • The snp didnt sentence him the sheriff did.I have never been on a Indy march and as much as I would like to probably never will because I was caught in a major crush in Edinburgh years ago so coping with that size of a crowd is a non starter . You are arguing semantics about timings etc. He knew what the rules were he shouldn’t have broken them end of. As I understand it he is no longer part of AUOB as it appears some of that lot have fallen out with each other as well. As usual Cubby you are just arguing for arguing sake and you have absolutely no right to question what I think about Manny Singhs prison sentence. I have a right to my opinion just as you do and to be honest attitudes like yours re this are inclined to dissuade from wanting me to attend any Indy march you do the cause no favours Cubby

      • If it was such a big deal to start the march at 11.00am and worth prosecuting somebody how come the next March in Glasgow started at 11.30am in Jan 2020.

        The only difference the early start time makes is to make it harder for people to attend and therefore keep the numbers down. Now why would an SNP controlled council end up doing that?

        • It was a council officer who reported the issue to the police. Councillors themselves have nothing to do with it Cubby. So it wasn’t an SNP decision. It was the decision of the police to press charges.

          Put it this way, if councillors had intervened in order to stop legal action, they’d have been attacked for showing favouritism to a pro-indy event, and as has been pointed out, the Orange order would have gone to town on it.

          Not everything is SNPbad you know.

          I don’t see anything in Eilidh’s post which suggests that she thinks it’s just fine and dandy to imprison Manny Singh for 72 days. You’re the first person to complain when you believe others are misrepresenting you or imputing things to you which you didn’t actually mean. Don’t do it to other people.

        • WGD – “Councillors themselves have nothing to do with it”

          Eilidh – “Councillors make policy”

          WGD – “Not everything is SNPbad you know.”

          Cubby – Agreed but why was the time brought forward late in the day when the march the previous year went fine at the later time.

          WGD – “I don’t see anything in Eilidh’s post which suggests that she thinks it’s just fine and dandy to imprison Manny Singh.”

          Eilidh – “Martyr complex”

          WGD – ” you’re the first person to complain when you believe others are misrepresenting you or imputing things to you which you didn’t actually mean.”

          Cubby – guilty as charged. The point here is how do you know Elidh didn’t mean what I said. Surely if I have misrepresented her she is more than able to speak for herself. If Elidh feels that is the case and explains why I will apologise.

          WGD – ” don’t do it to other people”

          Cubby – like you did to me about Rape Crisis Scotland. I explained why you and Lizg misrepresented what I meant but you kept saying it . You have a downer on me – it’s your site and you can do and say what you want. As I have said before if you don’t want me posting you just have to say.

  15. He’s probably looking for a row Cubby and dragged your name in as someone who will still comment….to be honest jumping in to a conversation between Capella and I to name dropp and goad like that… I thought was funny …in a pathetic kind of way…. little ole us causing such angst…. bloody hilarious:-)

  16. Well, I was looking at GERS coming out with some trepidation. With some bite from Coronavirus, but a lot more from the start of Brexit. As a business, Q1 of 2020 was a lot quieter than normal (it’s always a quiet time for me). Saved by my pal Rishi Sunak and his grant – which shows the value of USING INCREASED DEFICIT, but also of haing your own currency where it’s not really debt, just a bit of sap from the magic money tree.

    Some Unionists were already frothing eagerly at the mouth eaerlier in the month in anticipation of really bad figures, and hey, it’s turned out to be summarised by this from our old friend Mr Average: ” it’s the same old story”. Indeed, nothing to stir the Unionist breastie, no disasters, no dustbowls, so beloved of the extreme Unionist who would love to see Scotland really go bust.

    In fact, Wilson, and Murphy have done a great job, and that same Vague person has been reduced even further to this: “Brexit involves stopping a small outward fiscal transfer; Scexit stops a massive inward one”.

    Oh dear, whatever we think about the second part – get a load of that first part! “Brexit involves stopping a small outward fiscal transfer”. Talk about being blinded by one’s own obsessions. Pass the Calvine Klein.

    • Mmm, I actually enjoyed that skim through the dogfood twitter, haven’t done it for simply ages.. Really rattled is the impression I got. Here’s a classic quote:

      “the #GERS figures do no such thing – they are last year’s actuals ffs”

      “actuals” :LOL. Here’s what GERS says itself:

      “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) is a National Statistics publication. It estimates the revenue raised in Scotland and the goods and services provided for the benefit of Scotland.” – “estimates” – try putting that on HMRC submissions like VAT, PAYE and Corp Tax.

      “actuals” LOL oh LOL oh LOL 🙂

  17. Excellent article explaining how virtually all the ‘Estimates’ used to compile the report have a natural error that always tends to increase the deficit. This is evidenced simply by your comment that Scotland Wales and NI with a population of 9m notionally 13.5% if UK account for 54% of the deficit, simply impossible.

    I notice in the podcast that no mention was made of the HMRC website which shows that Scotland has a trading Surplus of £10b whilst England has a Deficit of £127b for Year End Q1 2020.


  18. I think GERS could be expressed in a logical expression, if you included a non-existent equivalent for England, a defunct one for Northern Ireland, and the Cardiff Uni one for Wales. It goes like this in terms of illustrative deficit:


    which says it all, frankly.

  19. Here it is in a single article, written by a man on Conservative Women the reason why Scotland will become an Independent country and leave these dinasaours behind.

    British Nationalism and exceptionalism writ large. Oh, my giddy aunt.


    • Thanks Bob, that was an excellent video. I’ve never heard the argument for why GERS is C.R.A.P explained so clearly. He spells it out in an easily understood manner. I agree with him also that it serves no useful purpose since it’s accuracy is undeniably biased against Scotland.

      I can’t think of a good reason for keeping it in its current form other than when we are Independent we will need to undertake such exercises ourselves so at least we will have the people with the skills to do so when they are needed.

      I suppose then the best we can do while it is still being published is point people to videos like this which explains clearly why GERS is nothing but a CRAP politically biased attempt at providing a true picture of an Independent Scotland’s finances.

      • The only way Scotland is going to acquire the data is post independence under their own collation system, Whitehall will never release the information as it would unravel the lies they’ve been telling all 4 nations for some time to favour the few in the south-east.
        Scotland has become their Achilles Heel when the public call it what it is, CRAP, perhaps a S30 is preferable in Surrey to neighbours descending with sharp implements and vicious intent…

  20. Groundhog Day again over and over again until the SNP stop endorsing these fictional figures , and has only recently added the caveat of these estimates do not reflect life in a Independent Scotland , until then Supporters of the Union will keep pushing them out annually with the assistance of their media .

    The whole point of the GERS annual release was made abundantly clear in 2014 , Six years later the same argument is still going on as if we all have collective amnesia ok we get it so why do the SNP government keep cooperating with the release of this obvious deception , its like handling someone who’s mugging you a extra weapon to beat you about the head , very clever and ultimately stupid .

    A few of the posters here getting pretty animated about being criticised on Wings maybe if the resident Clique allowed fare comment without making the personal remarks mob handed and being badgered into retaliation ,and then ultimately showed the naughty step a wider conversation could be had, you have a nice day

  21. I’m critical of wings and would be happy to continue to be but for the fact that the owner of the site blocked me. I was neither foul mouthed nor anti snp. Just thought during a general election attacks on the snp was doing the unionists job. Thankfully the wider Scottish public agreed with this site, the majority of whom don’t do blogs like this.

    Maybe he didn’t like openness and frankness without a foul mouth rant. Hardly open to new thoughts either way.

    Ps I always have a nice day.
    Want to discuss independence and how only the SNP can deliver it? I am certain WoS will not.

  22. Following Jackpot Carloan ex leader of the Tory branch in Scotland’s informal then formal complaints to the BBC about the FMs daily Corona virus updates then Rincon Lepton leader of the Labour branch’s complaints to the BBC on the same subject, now we have Labour Noble Lord Ffffoulkes making an official complaint to the BBC about Nicola Sturgeon’s daily state of the nation’s health updates

    The only complaints the BBC received on the health updates from the Tory party in London were from the viewing public in England

    • Fancy BBC Scotchland giving airtime to a Scotch woman politician who is the FM of Scotchland on Scotch TV. Whit a nerve. Whit next? Professor Murphy discussing the Scotch economy with Marr, Neil and Wark to name but a few and tearing their ‘Scotchland is an economic basket case’ propaganda hypes to shreds? That’s never going to happen on BBC Scotchland or anywhere else in these Isles but that would be a programme worth watching.

      • On the BBC one Scotland channel the FM coronavirus briefing can now be found under the heading Bargain Hunt in the programme guide.

        On the BBC Scotland channel the FM coronavirus briefing is found under Politics Scotland.

        Any normal country with a normal broadcaster would call it something like Public Health Briefing by the First Minister.

        We, of course, do not live in a normal independent country with a normal media.

  23. Very interesting discussion,and I hope that you’ll take this the right way if I say that it sounded at times that you were out of your comfort zone, Paul: good to get these ideas out to a wider audience. and to ensure that that’s being done in a way so that some of the ideas can become campaign talking points.
    I agree with many of the points which Richard Murphy makes, but I would quite like to have heard more about how the design of the tax system could be used to achieve a more inclusive society once Scotland gets independence. That will be the best time to embed substantial changes – such as a land value tax to pay to fund much more autonomous local government, taxing other forms of wealth and value added, and to bringing in the additional taxes needed for universal basic income.
    So, plenty of meat for the next time Prof. Murphy is on the Dugcast.

  24. Good podcast.

    Personally, I’d opt for just deleting GERS and starting over, in the same way one deletes an over-sized spreadsheet that has had more bolted on purposes than was originally intended. Even if it had a good purpose, the data and the time involved, and its current purpose is less valuable than whatever good it can do.

    Two reasons:

    1. Starting over can give the professional bean counters a definitive line from where to start. Like re-starting a stock take. It asks, “Where are we now?”, and doesn’t spend excessive time or effort allowing for the older systems or ideas within GERS (both of which are probably CRAP too).

    2. It would purge (a good word if used the in the proper context) the Scottish financial state of affairs of the political aspect of GERS. And with it, the oft-ridiculed name. No one will trust it, even if it produces good data. If GERS represents CRAP, then its name will always be associated with CRAP.

    Just ask Gerald Ratner.

    Reason 3 (I just massaged the figures myself) – It would give the the regulatory and auditing side of Scotland’s financial industry a chance to lay down more robust systems checks to prevent future CRAP (from any colour of Scottish Government, devolved or independent).

  25. Top class WGD ….not for one minute were you out of your comfort zone ….Prof Murphy a very ospeedy talker ….The whole programme was such a lesson on Ignorance is so not bliss….an entertaining and educative dug cast

    • I certainly didn’t feel uncomfortable chatting with him. It was a very enjoyable conversation – for both of us. So much so that he’s agreed to come back and do another podcast in the future.

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