When presented with the evidence that Scotland has been a huge net contributor to UK finances ever since the discovery of North Sea oil, Unionists sometimes protest “Ah, but what about the 260 years before that, when Scotland was just a poor wee backwater with no industry that was bankrolled by England after the Darien disaster?”
(Because most of them don’t actually know the first thing about Darien.)
And after this morning’s story, we thought it might be worth checking a few more of the official UK government figures for Scottish revenues and expenditure, up to the point where the Treasury stopped compiling the figures lest they get too embarrassing.
So thanks to yet another alert reader, that’s what we did.
The figures below come via the National Library of Scotland. If you click on the images you’ll download an Excel file which includes not only the charts but also the URLs where the data can be found. The picture they paint is an eye-opening one.
NB Irregularities like total spending in most years not adding up to 100% are due to discrepancies in the way the UK government reported the figures, with different sums being given for the same years. This is most likely due to exceptional items of spending which wouldn’t have been treated as part of the normal accounts.
And below in graph form:
If you add those numbers up, the total gap between the money Scotland raised and the amount it got back in spending over the 22-year period at the turn of the 20th century is just under £562.2 million. That’d be a not-insignificant sum in 2014, but if you convert it from 1911 prices (the midpoint of the period) it equates to a mind-boggling £56.1 billion, or a little over £2.5bn a year.
That’s far more even than the subsidy that oil-rich Scotland sent to Westminster over a similar period between 1979 and 1997 – a mere £1.5bn a year.
We can’t offhand think of any reasons why the situation would have changed markedly for the next 20-odd years, so whichever way you slice it it looks like Scotland has an awful lot of credit banked when it comes to divvying up shares of the UK’s huge debt.
It seems to us like we’ve coughed up enough for “Imperial Services” by now.