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All the answers

Posted on May 02, 2013 by

We don’t really want to spend all day discussing things from a single rapidly-declining minority-interest Unionist newspaper, but we spent 69p this morning buying a copy of the Scotsman in order to check some facts on the Susan Calman story, so we’re going to flipping well get our money’s worth.

The paper runs a rather odd piece today, in which the Labour-linked Centre for Public Policy for Regions is called upon to analyse a single Yes Scotland press release relating to the Scottish economy. (A boxout at the end promises a similar treatment for a “Better Together” leaflet at an unspecified point in the future.)


We’ve screenshotted the entire piece here if you want to read it without giving the Scotsman any traffic. But just to give you the flavour of the overarching (or underlying, depending on how you like to look at it) tone, below we’ve stripped out everything except the CPPR’s considered professional assessment.

“The Yes Campaign’s answer refers only to the size of the public sector and not to affordability or who might pay.

If the question actually means can we afford the current level of public services in an independent Scotland, then the answer currently is yes, as North Sea tax revenues are relatively high. Unfortunately, the answer in the future remains uncertain as North Sea revenues are highly erratic.


The more pertinent question is whether we have a strong enough tax base to pay for a certain level of services. The Yes Campaign’s answer looks only at one side of this question, so little can be drawn from it. The claim that Scotland’s tax revenue per person is higher than the UK’s is correct, once North Sea revenues are added, but so too is expenditure per person in Scotland. At present, this higher spend is paid for by a transfer of funds from the UK Exchequer. An independent Scotland would instead use the tax revenues paid by North Sea oil and gas producers to pay for it.


Scotland’s fiscal balance has been relatively better than the UK’s in recent years due to high North Sea tax revenues. Current projections for North Sea taxes are lower. The volatility of oil prices and production mean that little can be assumed with regards to Scotland’s future fiscal position relative to the UK. However, for both the UK and Scotland, it is the current weakness of public finances that is the main concern.


As with the answer to question three, it is the uncertainty over North Sea revenues that means little can be taken from the recent past with regards to even the near future.


The lower national wealth share calculation for Scotland depends on this being defined as GDP including the North Sea. However, much of the North Sea is not Scottish owned, so the wealth associated with these overseas-owned assets ends up abroad. Adjusting for this, it seems likely that Scotland and the UK would be in a roughly similar position with regards to affordability.


This implies that the average Scot would be about £5,000 better off post-independence. Yes Scotland does not explain how this transformation would arise.

In fact, as CPPR highlighted in a paper issued last week, Scotland’s wealth is likely to be on a par with the UK’s, post-independence. The confusion is caused by the low degree to which North Sea related GDP would actually contribute towards the wealth of individual Scots.


This statement is talking about potential in a world where future energy trends – whether in respect of nuclear, shale gas, green energy etc – are highly uncertain. As a result, the future benefit from this potential is difficult to quantify.


The revenue claim only looks at one half of the relevant fiscal balance equation. The other half – expenditure per head – is also higher in Scotland than for the UK average.


In the cases both of inward investment and education, these claims are based on independent sources. Whether these good results – from a position where Scotland is within the UK – would be further improved from a position of independence is not covered by the Yes Campaign.


The absolute size of an industry is largely irrelevant. For example, a much bigger country would probably have bigger food and drink exports, however that would not necessarily indicate it had a “better” food and drinks industry.


This figure is based on an estimate from the Oil & Gas UK trade body but has little bearing on current annual North Sea tax revenues.

Just what taxable value the remaining production in the North Sea has will depend on a variety of relevant factors such as: the cost of extracting the oil and gas; the energy prices paid; technology developments that allow for the extraction of the harder to reach hydrocarbons.

As such it has little immediate relevance to the debate over an independent Scotland’s economic and financial prosperity.

Analysis by CPPR, both here and elsewhere, suggests that an independent Scotland and the UK would start off having similar levels of standard of living and government fiscal balances.

This rough economic and financial parity puts neither the Yes nor the No campaign at a relative disadvantage. As such, it shifts the onus more on to wider points such as explaining how an improved economic outlook might be delivered.

However, over-claiming the benefits or dis-benefits of independence is neither good for the debate nor is it likely to stand up when analysed in detail.

If you can’t be bothered to read all of that, allow us to summarise: we don’t know anything, it’s all a bit uncertain and scary, even if we could be independent there’s probably not much point bothering because nothing will be different, here’s our invoice.

Where would we be without experts, eh?

The serious point, of course, is that as we’ve noted before, such analyses insist on seeing an independent Scotland that follows exactly the same policies as a devolved one largely controlled by Westminster does. There’s no mention of the extra money that could be freed up, particularly but not solely from the defence budget. No mention of what could be achieved by different tax policies, or wage policies, or housing policies, or increased employment. No mention of the possibilities of a renewable-energy bonanza.

If you insist on looking at independence as nothing but a geographical shift in the internal structures of Parliamentary power – as simply having different people in charge of implementing the same policies – obviously you’re going to end up concluding that it won’t be very different or worthwhile.

It’s not that the CPPR’s analysis is wrong as such, just that it’s completely irrelevant to the point, like a football manager trying to decide which striker to buy by counting their legs rather than studying their play.

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47 to “All the answers”

  1. Arbroath1320 says:

    A boxout at the end promises a similar treatment for a “Better Together” leaflet at an unspecified point in the future.
    You’ll excuse me here if I don’t hold my breath Stu. 😆

  2. Seasick Dave says:

    It’s not that the CPPR’s analysis is wrong as such, it’s just that it’s utterly irrelevant, like a football manager trying to decide which striker to buy by counting their legs rather than studying their play.
    Didn’t Tom Waits once sing about a circus with a gorilla called Tripod?
    I’m not sure he was counting legs though.

  3. Peter A Bell says:

    My own response to the same “article”.
    Since when was a nation’s right to independence conditional on passing some economic test? Particularly an economic test contrived by those determined, for their own self-serving reasons, to deny Scotland the normal constitutional status that other nations take for granted.

    British nationalists desperately want to reduce to whole referendum debate to a game of ping-pong played with economic statistics for the simple reason that those statistics can be made to say pretty much whatever they want them to say and nothing can ever be definitively proved one way or another.

    Here is the real “bottom line”. I want my country’s independence! If there is some economic risk involved it is not sufficient to deter me. And certainly no greater than the economic risks associated with remaining part of the UK.


    You might, in theory, persuade me that remaining in the union offered some benefits that would outweigh the desire to have Scotland rejoin the global family of nations. But, noting that unionists won’t even attempt this approach, I have to assume that no such benefits exist.

    I have a whole list of reasons why I want independence. Each of those reasons is sufficient in itself for me to vote Yes next year. Unionists are unable to offer a single reason why I should vote No. Instead, all they do is flap a spreadsheet in my face in the hope that I’ll panic.

    That isn’t going to happen.

  4. alasdair says:

    “We don’t really want to spend all day discussing things from a single rapidly-declining Unionist newspaper …”  Thank-god!  Because recently they seem to be taking up all your time!

    As important as it is to rebuff all their nonsense, those on the YES side seriously need to promote the positive case for independence.

  5. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Alasdair: do you dress the same in all weathers?

  6. HighlandMartin says:

    Wow. I don’t use the word pish often but I’ll bring it out for that.

  7. HandandShrimp says:

    So…it is all a bit uncertain..we might be only be paying 70p a litre for our petrol next week (aye right) but on balance nothing much will change.
    Right, so kicking the economics of it all into the long grass, because they aren’t going to be all that different from now, do we want to run our own country? Too blooming right we do. Just because the pot is the same doesn’t mean we would do the same. Priorities are what matters in politics and we know that we do not share the same priorities as Westminster.

  8. Mac says:

    No mention of Black Holes by the CPPR? We had plenty of Black Holes when Prof Arthur Midwinter was the media’s economic expert of choice.
    CPPR – bunch of slackers.

  9. Doug Daniel says:

    I do enjoy the CPPR’s attempts to pretend they’re a non-partisan research centre. Whenever I hear their name, I think back to this article by Joan McAlpine:
    I particularly like the way their website claims that, despite being a Labour member from 2000 – 2005, despite having been a researcher for the party in the run-up to the 1999 election and then being a SpAd for Donald Dewer and Henry McLeish, and despite being a consultant for Labour in 2006 and 2007, John McLaren had “no political affiliations” after 2005.
    GUID ‘EEN!
    The article just reads like “hey, here’s a YesScotland leaflet – tear it to shreds, please.” Yawn…

  10. Lianachan says:

    Well said, Peter A. Bell.  I wholeheartedly agree.  I’ve already said to many people that Scotland is a country, not a balance sheet.

  11. HandandShrimp says:

    I think BT might be a tad disappointed in it to be honest. It isn’t nearly scary enough

  12. a supporter says:

    To simplify the waffle about Oil and Gas:-

    Long term future demand for oil and gas. That will rise fairly rapidly due to increased economic growth and vehicle use in the less developed economies, and in the West.

    Long term oil production. This will probably be stable for a long time as increased oil and gas prices open up more and more difficult fields. But in very long term oil and gas production will probably fall gradually.

    Fundamental Law of Simple Economics and I do mean simple. Rising demand and falling or stable supply means prices rise.

    Yes there will be more recessions and maybe even a depression but all those do is conserve oil and gas reources and push their use into the future. We are CURRENTLY in a recession/period of low growth so oil and gas demand is lower than normal. What kind of ‘economists are they in the CCPR when they apparently don’t consider these things?

  13. Marcia says:

    As soon as I saw the name John McLaren I stopped reading.

  14. Training Day says:

    Perhaps the CPPR might turn their powers of analysis Lamont-wards..

    Since McLaren has ‘no political affiliations’ I’m sure he’ll regard this as a worthy challenge..

  15. Graham Ennis says:

    Better to die than live on our knees. Simple. Everything else is irrelevant.

  16. Angus McLellan says:

    It’s not that the CPPR’s analysis is wrong as such, it’s just that it’s utterly irrelevant“.

    The simple fact of independence means that all sorts of things change.

    Some – like where the people we pay to work on foreign affairs or defence or the like are based, and hence where they spend their salaries – would change very quickly. It it’s not all that simple to quantify the changes – economists don’t agree about the value of fiscal multiplier effects and we don’t know the exact size of the departments concerned, we can be absolutely certain that there would be an increase in economic activity as a result.

    Other changes would probably take a little longer and are a little less certain. For example, Tesco in Poland or Slovakia is represented by separate companies – Tesco (Polska) Sp. z.o.o. and Tesco Stores a.s. – with their own national management structures. Tesco in Scotland are not. A separate regulatory, tax and legal administration would push many companies to adopting the same model in Scotland as they do in Poland, Slovakia, Ireland, etc, etc. Different companies would change at different speeds, depending on their structures and their markets, but most big names would change. This might not be wonderful news for their shareholders, but it would be good news for the people who’d be employed working in those new national HQs and for the lawyers, accountants and the like who would service them. Again, quantifying the economic and employment consequences is not a simple task, but it’s certain that changes would occur.

    Not only do these sort of changes impact tax revenues, they should also impact the ratio of GDP vs GNI and (I understand things correctly) the balance of payments. In other words, the analysis is irrelevant and wrong too.

  17. Dramfineday says:

    Well said Peter A Bell and Rev

  18. Aplinal says:

    Rev, some years ago – I think 2005/2006 – an accountant dissected the GERS which seemed to show that EVEN WITH no change in policy, Scotland is actually significantly better off than the GERS figures show.  Things like misallocated taxed from companies registered in Edinburgh, Crown estates, income tax, fines etc.  
    I heard that he would do another before the referendum.  So, can anyone recall his name as I can not <embarrassed expression> and might he do the business for WoS?

  19. Taranaich says:

    As important as it is to rebuff all their nonsense, those on the YES side seriously need to promote the positive case for independence.
    The positive case for independence is, to me, blindingly obvious: the right to self-determination on a global stage.
    But at the risk of going a bit off-topic, what amazes me about the negativity coming out of certain unionist debates is that if you’re going to do scaremongering, the Yes campaign would absolutely wallop the No campaign even on that level.
    Imagine if the Yes campaign decided to focus on the negative instead of the positive, warning the Scottish population of what would happen if you voted no:
     – We would be stuck with a government we didn’t vote for which doesn’t represent the interests of most of the population of England let alone Scotland, and is known to waste, embezzle or outright steal money ostensibly meant for Scotland
     – We would continue to suffer under the despicable Welfare reforms, rampant corruption and economic devastation which are destroying our country right now
     – We would continue to send a generation to die by sending them off in illegal wars, as well as put civilians at risk from terrorist reprisals because of the actions of Westminster
     – We would continue to be 8% of a bigger country instead of 100% of a smaller one despite having distinctive education, health, legal and social systems
     – We would continue to spend billions on a nuclear deterrent which is more likely to kill thousands of Scottish civilians due to a catastrophic malfunction than it is likely to be used against Scotland’s “enemies”
    All the scaremongering, speculative dangers the No campaign can concoct couldn’t possibly compare to the real and present dangers affecting us right now as part of the union.  The Yes campaign doesn’t need to scaremonger: just look at the country as it is today, and tell me you aren’t scared out of your minds by the idea that what is happening right now will go on. Don’t even consider the real possibility that it could get worse: aren’t things already completely and utterly unacceptable?

  20. Tinyzeitgeist says:

    “However, over-claiming the benefits or dis-benefits of independence is neither good for the debate nor is it likely to stand up when analysed in detail.”
    Isn’t that exactly what this puff piece from the CPPR does? It is claiming that there are dis-benefits or uncertainty about independence. I somehow doubt that they will ever produce a similar analysis of he rUK economy, or if they do that it would ever see the light of day.
    What the unionists really fear is Scotland leaving and taking our not inconsiderable resources with us because as far as I can see the rUK economy would be in even more serious trouble than it is currently.

  21. Tinyzeitgeist says:

    Aplinal, I think the economist you refer to is Nial Aslen. See this:

  22. Ru says:

    Niall Aslen is the name of the accountant

  23. ecossenkosi says:

    Peter Bell, nail right on the head Sir.
    Taranaich, exactly and eloquently put

  24. mato21 says:

    National Collective have got over their target of £18,000

  25. Embradon says:

    If the relevent departments licensing and regulating the North Sea were in, say, Aberdeen rather than London that would encourage more of the oil company jobs to move too. 
    Some years ago, one of the major companies was planning to move its European HQ to Aberdeen after Forsyth promised that if the Tories won the ’92 election, the civil service T & I jobs relating to oil would be relocated to Aberdeen.
    Of course he was lying. Major won the election, the jobs were not moved and the Oil Company stayed put in the South of England (and all the planning work I had done for them went in the bin)
    It makes my blood boil to hear the price of oil quoted as “London Brent”.

  26. Laura says:

    Alpinal – Niall Aslen

  27. Aplinal says:

    @Tinyzeitgeist & Laura
    Many thanks.  Yes that was the article I recall.

  28. heraldnomore says:

    69p, is that how much it costs these days?
    I can think of better things to do with soixante neuf

  29. The Man in the Jar says:

    What Peter A. Bell said is bang on the money.

  30. Les Wilson says:

    What I do not see anywhere is what we in total, SAVE by being Independent, and out of Unionist shackles and their waste-monger policies? 

  31. velofello says:

    I fully agree agree with Peter Bell on his reasons for wanting Scotland to be an independent country. Angus McLellan details a number of the economic benefits of independence.
    The icing on the cake is the economic case. Scotland would prosper financially at a stroke.
    The No campaign can huff and they can puff for eternity but they simply cannot make a case of why a country that presently exports oil, gas, and generated electrical power for no financial benefit would not prosper if independent, and therefore would retain the income of these exported resources to herself.

  32. AmadeusMinkowski says:

    *This tendentious Scotsman article has a footnote claiming to have commissioned a similar report on the claims of BitterTogother.  Whose going to take a bet that this does not all come out smelling of roses!
    * Re-cyled element of a post  in “The Memory Hole”
    02/04/2013 11.58am

  33. Braco says:

    yes, but we would never bring that kind of negativity up would we, in a pub conversation say? (snigger)

  34. Vronsky says:

    “what amazes me about the negativity coming out of certain unionist debates is that if you’re going to do scaremongering, the Yes campaign would absolutely wallop the No campaign even on that level.”
    (begin sarcasm) Isn’t it very sporting of them not to bother?(end sarcasm)

  35. Barontorc says:

    What is the CPPR and who is John McLaren in economic circles?
    From his CV it looks as if his specialised role is in political spin, so why are we even giving his opinions the light of day never mind trying to deconstruct what he blethers on about?
    I think I’ll stick with what Joe Stiglitz tells me about the economic way ahead, so thanks very much, but not today thanks – or ever!
    From Wikipedia, this is the same Joseph Eugene StiglitzForMemRSFBA (born February 9, 1943) is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal(1979). He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank, and is a former member, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.[1][2] He is known for his critical view of the management of globalization, free-market economists (whom he calls “free market fundamentalists“), and some international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
    The CPPR is a unionist spinning machine – nothing less, so let’s keep them on a wee peep.

  36. Barontorc says:

    Am I seeing things Rev – or is something afoot – ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation.’ looks awfy like NNS-ism.

  37. Morag says:

    What, here?  It’s usually because you made a mistake when you re-typed your username and the software thinks you’re a new poster.  New posters’ first posts are moderated otherwise this ends up like Scot Goes Pop when he hasn’t had a clearout.

  38. Barontorc says:

    Shock, jings and shiver me timbers Morag – it brought me back memories of yore! And, I’ve been ever so polite as well!

  39. Barontorc says:

    O/T – perhaps……but, came across these quotes that seem to fit the bill and they deserve an airing; ‘….If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing….’

    ‘…if you don’t watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

  40. Morag says:

    I expect a post from “Baron Torc” or something like that to appear once RevStu gets back from the pub or whatever he’s wasting time on at the moment.

  41. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Am I seeing things Rev – or is something afoot – ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation.’ looks awfy like NNS-ism.”

    As I’ve said many times – Akismet automatically puts posts with lots of links in moderation. So if you paste a chunk of Wiki with a dozen in it, I have to approve it manually whoever you are.

  42. Hetty says:

    One question for the ‘No’ lot then, why on earth are they so so desperate for Scotland to not go for Independence?
    I am not sure if ‘dis-benefit’ is an actual word or term, it doesn’t make sense! Mis-information is the name of the game from the ‘no’ lot.
    We are not daft here in Scotland, so it’s time those at the Scotsman stopped telling people they are.
    The Scotsman doesn’t deserve even it’s title. Pah!

  43. Patrick Roden says:

    Ive been saying on here for a wee while that a few of my friends are voting for UKIP. It was interesting to listen to an office discussion in which ukip was being discussed. one member of the team mentioned that she was intending voting for them but had saw that they had someone making a nazi salute, so she was now not sure.
    This conforms something that Scottish Skier has been saying, namely that smears do not work well and will often backfire badly.

  44. Barontorc says:

    Just watched UKIP’s Farange on Brillo’s show and he was given  r’spect his party don’t deserve when compared with the way they deal with Scottish independence, if equal is king.
    What is important to these politicos and media types is that Englandshire has 50 million and the grand total of Scotland, Wales and NI is 10 million, so why should they, even if they were inclined, which they certainly are not, to empathise with Scottish aspirations, discuss anything which is not in the interests of England?
    I feel the penny has dropped with many people living in Scotland, that 5 million against 50 million just ain’t gonna work and the way social care and the NHS and warmongering and Trident is going, not to mention the slippy slope of finances under UK Gov, is proof positive that we need to be independent.
    Let’s go!

  45. Angus McLellan says:

    @Vronsky: Timing is as important in politics as it is in comedy. If, hypothetically speaking, Yes or the SNP were minded to go negative, they would probably be best advised to do so close to the vote rather than now.
    Have a look at the pics a Google image search for “no to av adverts” turns up. Most of those could be reused and you can easily come up with more. If alliteration is your thing then how about teachers not trident or carers not carriers? The possibilities are endless really.

  46. Ken Johnston says:

    I had a look some time ago at the CPPR website.
    It appeared to me that the Uni. did NOT fund it.
    If so, who then. Labour.

  47. Angus McLellan says:

    @Ken: The CPPR ssay, and I can see no reason to doubt them, that they are “independent of any political or corporate bodies“. Their initial funding came from the Scottish Funding Council and they receive assistance in kind – not cold hard cash – from Glasgow Uni.

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