Thursday, 14 August 2014

Definitive guide to economic reports re. Indyref.

This area of the debate can be particularly intimidating but really, its not. Here are some simple guide lines to keep in mind when a think tank rep is on the radio or telly blabbing on about their most recent report.

Its dead easy, two gents from think tanks on the radio (at 2 hrs 9 mins-ish in, link is good for 7 days from today) on Good Morning Scotland. Euan Stuart from the No supporting Scottish Research Society - that this set-up supports a No vote already casts a shadow over its objectivity - and John McLaren from Fiscal Affairs Scotland which is unaligned. The BBC interviewer focused on the costs of a Yes vote even although the unaligned chappy had a range of results from £1000 better off to £1000 worse off.

The Scottish Research Society report is titled, well, as above really... 

The No supporting chap was proved to be talking mince because his figures were based on a per head share of oil - which not even Better Together/Westminster use any more on account of it being a bit daft - he was saying the much-put-upon-yet-still-venerable 'Scottish Family' could be as much as £5500 worse off. Using a per capita share instead of a geographic share of oil isn't trying very hard these days, its akin to telling people to vote No because David Cameron has great hair - it is completely irrelevant.

Here's the thing though, the key point - the flaw. In order to know how much better or worse off we'd be, you have to know two things; how much cash you have to begin with and how much you're already spending.

We know very roughly how much cash we'd have to begin with (from GERS.) There are those who believe its a pretty conservative estimate because companies trading across the UK but headquartered south of the border currently have a lot of their tax counted as English income - not to mention excise duty from Scottish goods leaving the UK via English ports...

In terms of spending though - what figures are they using? Is it projections based on what Westminster spends? If it is, that's going to be pretty inaccurate given the difference in spending priorities between Holyrood and Westminster.

Another rule of thumb is; if they've used figures from the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) while they'd say it lends their report a certain gravitas - since the OBR was created by George Osborne and is widely accepted as being an arm of the Tory Party - reality says something quite different involving feelings a good bit less satisfying than those generated by gravitas.

OBR oil projections. Its the only one going downwards.

These reports often talk about an independent Scotland having to raise taxation and cut spending - never one or the other mind - always both. They're also invariably too busy banging on about areas where we'd have to increase spending (on the elderly is a fave) to tell us about areas where we'd be spending a lot less (like defence.)

So, when ever the Scottish media peddles a doom & gloom story about the economy, just bare in mind, the authors of the reports driving the headlines are using spending projections they know will be different to those in an independent Scotland - partially or fully based on figures from a Conservative number factory.

When Donald Trump sat in a Scottish Government inquiry  jawing about wind farms damaging tourism - he claimed in support of his point: "I am the evidence." No one (except him) bought that - and so it is with many of these economic reports. Essentially, its the No campaign saying: "Listen, this is a terrible idea that'll make you all poorer. How do we know? Because we asked ourselves and we said so."

The Yes side might cherry pick stats to suit its agenda, but what it doesn't do is take projections from places like the OBR and treat them like incontrovertible fact. But that is a common refrain in the debate, if Better Together/Westminster are saying it: its fact - but if the Yes campaign/SNP are saying it: its dangerous assertion.


  1. Pa

    You are of course correct in that people should keep an open mind, it's like the polls for me. They are interesting but they are a small part of the story because this situation has never risen before. We don't know how much westminster spends because they will never ever tell the population for fear of the results of the disclosure. We also know that it is not in the fews best interests to tell the truth regarding any part of the economy because again I suspect we probably do better than we think and fear works to a degree with some people. We do have an idea of Scotlands spend and earning because a) we get pocket money and b) the GERS report that covers some of the areas that are of interest.

    I suspect that not much will be different in the first 5 to 10 years of an independent Scotland. It will take time for the change in ethos to occur but also the change in society that we need to be a success. I also suspect that one quick possitive change will be some increased employment through tourism, setting up of new departnments, new embasseys opening etc because of the interest in the new Scotland.

    So overall I don't think it will be easy, nothing ever is these days, but it will not be all doom and gloom either. If it were all doom and gloom Belter Together and the Unionists would not be lying and fearing as much as they are and England would have voted for their own independence years ago but people never think about that. The Unionists in the main don't believe in Britain, they believe in London and their perceived standing, that is all that concerns them. They don't give a shit about Scotland and a NO vote will demonstrate that for all to see god forgive.

    Off topic but i read a wee thing today from arthur Scargill saying that he thinks YES probably have a slight lead and I have been starting to see it that way myself. When you look at the amazing work by RIC in getting people in so called poor areas to register to vote on mass, the people I speak to and just a general feeling. Nothing that Scot Goes Pop would accept as James is brilliant at the polls analysis, but you know what I really think Belter Together know what is really happening through their access to the mega polls westminster did. I really think they are afraid, the no voters I speak to and challenge on Twitter are very very afraid now and really are resorting to abuse etc online. I don't think I have been this optimistic about the result for a while but I am really starting to feel that YES are going to pull this off.



  2. Aye.

    I agree with all of that. I think BT are running scared, they've got nothing and they know it - and so are a lot of ordinary folk in the street.

    I've always regarded the hard core unionists as British statists (not sure if that's the right word) as you say, they feed on the efforts of people from all corners of the UK as they once did the world. They might be Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish - at heart though, they are British and only have British interests at heart - if you see what I mean - its like a supra-state squating over the component countries of the UK.

    I've also had several barneys with unionists on twitter utterly fixated with betting and polling - whats the point in that? Its daft. As a way of getting people to change their vote to a no - it seems particularly stupid to use leads in polls or betting trends as a reason to vote for anything - yet that seems to be what they're trying to do.

    Same with all these reports, its all so much bullshit.

  3. You said
    The No supporting chap was proved to be talking mince because his figures were based on a per head share of oil - which not even Better Together/Westminster use any more on account of it being a bit daft

    I say
    Erm - downright illegal actually, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, all that


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?