And the country’s North Sea oil revenues have plummeted to just 60mby John McTernan / August 25, 2016 / Leave a comment
This week the Scottish Government published a report in which it conceded that independence is never going to happen because Scotland can’t afford to go it alone.
Of course, they didn’t admit that openly, but the facts cry out to heaven. I’m referring to the publication of Government Expenditure and Revenue 2015-16, colloquially known as GERS. This annual publication is the most authoritative account of how much tax is raised in Scotland and how much is spent on all public services—so it includes the welfare and pensions spend of Westminster as well as the health and education budgets of Holyrood.
This year’s figures are eye-watering. Scotland has a deficit of nearly £15bn—9.5 per cent of GDP compared to the UK deficit of 4 per cent. Why so high? The reasons are simple. First, Scotland’s historically high levels of public spending. Second, the complete collapse of oil revenues—they brought in only £60m in 2015-16. There is simply no way to make this into a positive story for separatism. That is a huge gap—an unbridgeable gap for an independent Scotland.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, did her best to promote the standard SNP line—when figures look bad for Scotland they make the case for independence, just as when figures look good they equally make the case for separation. But her heart wasn’t really in it. Instead she tried misdirection—the basis as much of clever politics as it is of great comedy. There was a briefing about civil servants drawing up a bill for another independence referendum—one that the Scottish Parliament has no power to call. There was the appointment of a Brexit minister and the publication of wild estimates of the possible cost of Brexit to the Scottish economy. How much, you ask? Considerably less than the costs of Scotland leaving the UK, but that is not the point. Sturgeon was desperate to talk about anything other than the GERS figures.