GERS stands for Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland - if you didn't know. It's compiled by statisticians from the Scottish Government - you might have noticed the release of the most recent version for 2012-13 out today, or not...
The Scottish press are going a bit daft reporting it as 'bad news for the Yes campaign' and presenting more 'fiscal concerns' for Scotland. It is as you would expect - 'A blow'.
Getting to the truth, is as usual a bit boring - but worth the effort - so here goes with the Idiot's Guide.
In 2011-12 Scotland ran a budget deficit of 5%, the UK's deficit was 6% so Scotland was a bit better off. (Figures.)
In 2012-13 Scotland ran a budget deficit of 5.9%, the UK's deficit was 5.8% so the rUK was a bit better off (by 0.1%.) (Figures.)
GERS is compiled within the context of expenditure the Scottish Government has no control over; defence, welfare, foreign policy, tax policy... The Scottish Government has to be scrupulously accurate - well, as accurate as statistical analysis ever can be - but Holyrood has no control over Westminster spending, it makes things incredibly skewed.
Here we find that old Dilbert line coming into play: "Excellent. I'm in a position of direct control but oblique responsibility."
Back in 2011 this guy...
|George Osborne, he controls Scotland's purse strings|
started diddling with taxation around the Oil & Gas industry.
This other guy...
|Nicholas Soames, Conservative MP for Mid-Sussex. (HT to Wings.)|
The March 2011 tax increase reduced the value of future projects by 25% overnight. My hon. Friend knows that the future development of the North sea depends in large part on clever, technical solutions at the very forefront of what is manageable for marginally economic fields, but the increase in the tax rate has rendered many of those future fields uneconomic to develop. That serious matter for the country must be addressed.The result?
|from the BBC|
The last two columns represent Oil & Gas income for 2011-12 and 2012-13. Because of Osborne's tax raid and to be fair, other planned & unplanned disruptions, there was a 41% drop in oil revenues for this year.*
You begin to see what's happening here, while nobody believes for a minute Osborne did it deliberately, the Scottish press and Better Together are having to be sponged off the ceiling such is their glee over Scotland's 'worsening' deficit.
As already described, tax & spending decisions over Oil & Gas (in this example) reside with Westminster NOT Holyrood. The former has all the control while the latter is made to shoulder the blame.
More importantly, Better Together etc are trying to convince people to vote no using as evidence conditions created by Westminster - who's members stand to lose heavily if Scotland (does the right thing and) vote yes.
Not only did Osborne help create the blip in Scotland's fiscal position, over the years Westminster governments failed to create a sovereign wealth fund - the only country with oil reserves to not have a fund - so the troughs in Oil & Gas revenues can be weathered with little or no ill effects.
Do you get it yet? Westminster are doing things that make everyone in Scotland worse off then telling us we're TOO WORSE OFF to be independent.
Reading that back actually makes me angry...
... so angry I'm going to deploy an exclamation mark and make it bold!
So when (or if) you're listening to Blair McDougall or some other Unionist mouthpiece-masquerading-as-a-proud-Scot flapping their lips over these 'disastrous' GERS figures just remember; Scotland's fiscal position is still largely predicated on decisions made at Westminster, all Holyrood can do is attenuate the worst of its stupidity.
Plus, when you tote it all up; the difference between Scotland and the rUK (which we're all expected to assume is getting on just fine) is just 0.1%
They tell us Scotland would be on the brink if we vote yes, with only a tiny sliver in it - are we not already on the brink as part of the UK?
Or would we only be on the brink if Westminster had no power over Scotland and its revenues.
I was going to try and keep this short - GERS is seriously boring stuff, oh well... Seasoned political anoraks will also notice that not once did I use the phrase: '...if you include a geographic share of north sea oil & gas...'
Unlike the mainstream press, I'm not casting any doubt on ownership: its ours.
* A 41% drop sounds like a lot - Oil & Gas accounts for ~10% of Scotland's economy so in real terms the drop would be less than 5% (probably less because Scotland's economy is bigger than Westminster would have us all believe.) Norway is more dependent on oil with it constituting ~18% of their economy. They however, took the time to build a half trillion pound oil fund, the proceeds from which, will probably never run out.