by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Proud Scots all across the country have been celebrating the apparent impoverishment of their nation and its alleged reliance on handouts from its larger southern neighbour. It really is rather sad to see how happy some people are that their country is apparently an economic basket case after 308 years of Westminster rule. The solution to this problem is, it seems, to continue to allow Westminster to mismanage Scotland’s economy to ensure that … er, … Scotland remains the poorest country in the Western world.

Much has been written about GERS by people who are far better qualified than me but I’ve gleaned a few pertinent details on the latest figures which I thought it might be useful to bring together, acknowledging that this information comes from other people who have actually taken the time to check through the figures. I did that once a couple of years ago and ended up with a thumping headache so I’m going to let others do the hard work this time.

The main thing to remember is that GERS is a collection of guesses and estimates, often using out of date data. Even if those guesses and estimates somehow proved accurate which seems unlikely given the track record of UK Government agencies in making accurate forecasts, GERS would still only show a snapshot of Scotland’s finances as part of the Union. It has absolutely no relation to how the finances would look if Scotland were an independent country with full control over all the economic levers available to normal governments. As such, its only real purpose is to show how inept and incompetent the UK Government is at managing Scotland’s economy. It might also be worth considering why no other “regions" within the UK have similar figures produced. Could it be that Westminster wants to keep telling Scots how pathetic they are in order to keep them under control? And why would they do that if Scotland really was such a drain on the mighty UK? You’d think they’d dump us in order to save themselves some money but apparently they are so kind-hearted they’d rather keep subsidising us. It is worth bearing in mind that the UK has used this tactic for centuries, warning colonies that they could never cope on their own and must therefore remain under UK control. A certain nation known as the United States of America was the first to stick two fingers up to this idea and go its own way. On the whole, they haven’t done too badly.

But back to GERS and the latest set of figures. There are a few interesting statistics.

North Sea Oil revenue fell 97%. This was so devastating to the oil-reliant Scotland that GDP fell a whopping 0.45%. What? But that actually suggests Scotland’s economy is not reliant on oil which we all know is nonsense because the media keep telling us Scotland has no other business sectors worth a damn. Odd, isn’t it that the dramatic failure of our major source of income resulted in almost no change to the country’s GDP? It’s almost as if Unionist politicians and the media have been lying to us.

The expenditure allocated to Scotland also shows some odd figures.

Transport is a devolved matter, so Scotland pays all of its own transport infrastructure costs such as the building of the new Forth Crossing, the Borders railway and the upgrading of the A9. However, we also, according to GERS, are deemed to contribute to “National" transport projects. “National" in this sense meaning projects in the rest of the UK, predominantly London. For example, Scotland is deemed to pay a share of upgrading and maintaining London Underground, developing the London CrossRail link and taking a share of HS2 development costs. The allocated share for this has risen from £181m in 2014/15 to £427m in 2015/16. That’s an increase of 136%. What it covers isn’t revealed but what is known is that none of these costs would accrue to an independent Scotland.

Scotland’s deemed share of International Services was £839m. this has reportedly increased by £200m in the past three years. what for? We don’t know. Perhaps it’s all those UK embassies hosting parties to promote Scottish exports – except that we know they have been told not to do that so why the costs are escalating is anybody’s guess.

The allocated cost of Science & Technology rose by £64m to £494m. That’s an increase of 13% but it’s not clear what it’s for because Universities and Researchers are complaining that their funding is being cut. Odd, isn’t it? Westminster is imposing cuts on all Governmental Departments but Scotland’s share of this cost has increased at a rate several times the rate of inflation.

Those are just a handful of examples and I haven’t even covered the cost of Trident or building massive aircraft carriers which don’t have any planes, or the costs of bombing Syria in order to persuade Syrians to stay at home and not flee here. But, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered going into it any further. Anyone who believes GERS is an impartial and accurate assessment of Scotland’s finances is looking at them through Union Jack tinted spectacles and seems oblivious to the fact that there are plenty of independent countries in Europe who are managing fine even in these difficult economic times and who don’t have the great burden of oil on top of their other woes. Of course, most of them probably have other major sectors like tourism, Scotch whisky, salmon and beef, computer games and biomedical research. Perhaps Scotland would cope better if it had things like that.