By Martin Kelly
Newly published figures have revealed that Scots would be better off by over £800 per year if the country was independent.
The Scottish National Party has welcomed the publication of the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report which shows that Scotland is financially stronger than the UK as a whole to the tune of £4.4 billion, or £824 per person.
Covering 2011/12, the report showed that Scotland generated 9.9 per cent of UK tax revenues despite having only 8.4 per cent of the UK population. According to the report, Scotland received only 9.3 per cent of spending – a shortfall of 0.6 per cent on the country’s contribution.
The report also revealed that Scotland ran a deficit of £3.4bn – which is 2.3% of Gross Domestic Product, whilst the UK’s deficit of £92.3bn was over two and a half times higher at 6.0% of GDP.
In considering the overall net fiscal balance for Scotland – which includes infrastructure investment to yield long term benefits – Scotland was again in a stronger position than the UK: a deficit of 5.0 per cent of GDP, compared to 7.9 per cent for the UK as a whole.
Finance committee convener SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said:
“These are a powerful set of figures, which prove beyond any and all doubt that Scotland more than pays her way. The reality is that Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK – not the other way round – and also has better finances than other developed economies.
“The report shows that Scotland’s finances are stronger than the UK’s as a whole to the tune of £4.4 billion – or £824 for every man, woman and child.”
Mr Gibson said the figures gave a “big boost” to the Yes campaign and added:
“While the No campaign tries to talk Scotland down – and bizarrely argues that having access to billions of pounds of oil tax revenues is somehow a bad thing for Scotland but a good thing for Westminster – these figures give a big boost to confidence in Scotland, and to a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum.
“Instead of Westminster wasting billions on unwanted Trident nuclear weapons, an independent Scotland with access to our nation’s wealth of resources can and will build a strong economy and fair society.”
Over the period 2007-08 to 2011-12 as a whole Scotland’s net fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP, including an illustrative geographical share of North Sea revenue, has on average been lower than the equivalent UK figure. When expressed in cash terms, this relative difference is equivalent to £12.6 billion over the five-year period.
Unionists however attempted to pour cold water on claims the figures supported arguments for independence.
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh said the Gers figures showed the reverse.
“Once again these figures show the benefit to all Scots of remaining part of the UK.
“We do not simply have a shared economy but also shared services, a shared pensions system and our largest trading partner is the rest of the UK. Our future is all the more secure because we share so much.
“The GERS figures reveal the folly of giving up on that shared stability for an uncertain economic future based on the unpredictable and declining resource of oil and gas.”
The Scottish Labour MP said an independent Scotland could not rely on an oil and gas sector that was “unsustainable” and “being depleted” and added:
“Rather than the SNP talking about how much they could do in 2016, post separation, they should be explaining why they have utterly failed to use the powers and revenues they have at present to help the Scottish economy out of the economic doldrums.
“The SNP need to talk about how they will plan to grow our economy now and until the next Holyrood elections. Instead, everything they do is focused upon the referendum. It is a distraction which has left the SNP unable or unwilling to do the best for Scotland now.”
Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “Even with a geographical share of North Sea oil revenue, Scotland would be facing a huge deficit of more than £7 billion. This is a substantial gap and the SNP must start to explain how it plans to plug the gap under separation if oil revenues turn out to be lower than this year.
“Money brought in from oil is predicted to decrease from 2016 onwards and, as the SNP admits, is extremely volatile.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Even in the good years we’re running a deficit of £7.6 billion. What would it be when the oil revenues drop?”
BBC Scotland downplayed the contrasts with the UK and instead highlighted the deficit. News presenters on Newsdrive described the GERS report as showing “Scotland spent more than it raised last year”.
MEANWHILE, the Fraser of Allander Institute has downgraded its prediction for the Scottish economy. The think tank has now estimated that the Scottish economy will grow by just under 1 per cent next year.
However the same body issued a similar downgrade last November when it predicted the Scottish economy would shrink by 0.1 per cent in 2012, official figures last month showed that the Scottish economy in fact grew by 0.4%.