By Alasdair Galloway
Yes its that time of year again – kids go back to school, Scottish teams get punted out of Europe at the first or second time of asking and the GERS report is published to the cries of “told you so” by our Unionist chums. This is so predictable that if I didn’t hear the screech of Kevin Hague I would think I was going deaf (or worse!). Personally I am too bored with the whole thing to even work through it. I will leave it at two comments.
- The introduction will include somewhere about line 3 that the report sets out findings about Scotland under present constitutional arrangements. I would have put quote marks round this, but I can’t even be bothered to get even an old copy out never mind download today’s publication. In short, the report is about Scotland now and not about Scotland independent, for they cannot talk about that as they don’t know, for instance (only e.g.) how much debt an independent Scotland would take, and they don’t know how an independent Scotland would spend.
- Secondly, while the stattos who produce the report will have done a highly professional job, the fact remains that they have (proportionately) very few original figures for the data doesn’t exist in many cases separately for Scotland. Holyrood and Westminster are negotiating how to work out how much VAT is paid in Scotland. Many of the numbers they are working with are estimates – professionally produced and no doubt within +/- 5% confidence limits, but still estimates, and as we all know estimates don’t always work out. I wouldn’t use the word “shoddy” because as a statistical exercise it will be done to a high standard, but how much reliance should we put on it given the quality of data (and why is data for Scotland not routinely collected is another question – is it all that difficult?)
Two last things. First why have the Scottish Government persisted with this since 07? One reason is that the data suggested for a time (up to about 2012/13) that our deficit was less than the UK as a whole (oil was still about $100 – 120) but since then GERS has just been a stick to beat us with. Why not just stop this, take the political hit and move on? Or, more constructively instead why not a report that is transparent about Scotland’s finances, perhaps with a nod toward independence?
Lastly, the two photos above are of the Herald and National reportage of the publication, which illustrate exactly the divisiveness of the debate. The Scotsman in contrast includes both things in its headline so maybe there is hope.