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Gazing into the black hole

Posted on March 09, 2016 by

Economics: The art of explaining why all of your models fail to accurately predict either the future or the past.

It’s the time of year again when everyone glances at the first page of a dense booklet of complex economic data and immediately starts using it to make wild forecasts and proclamations despite the long-known problems with doing so.


So it’s also, once again, time to try looking a little further to tease out some details that others might have – let’s be generous here – accidentally missed.

First, to get some of the headline figures out of the way: there’s been a slump in offshore oil revenue, due largely to the crash in the oil price resulting from an ongoing economic conflict between Saudi Arabia and the USA.

This has caused Scottish oil revenues to drop from £4bn in 2013-14 to £1.8bn in the 2014-15 figures. A £2bn “black hole” in the accounts, if you will.

Except… total Scottish revenue is only down £600 million, from £54.05bn last year to £53.44bn this year. That’s just a touch over 1% of a fall, and is comparable to some of previous year’s “budget underspends“. Thus it could even be said to be within the margin of error of budget estimates. So what’s going on?


The first thing to understand is that our transport and energy infrastructure is still almost entirely dependent on oil, thus is highly sensitive to changes in price. When oil prices go down, fuel and heating becomes cheaper which allows the average consumer a bit more money, assuming a fixed income, to travel and to spend money in the local and greater economy.

This drives up demand, which leads to more non-oil jobs, more supply and a general increase in economic activity. Indeed, some sources credit such effects as being even stronger, in the long term, than the shock caused by the collapse in the oil industry. This likely goes a fair way in explaining the year-to-year increase in income tax, onshore Corporation Tax, VAT, fuel duties and the like.

Now, it can also be seen that the UK’s receipts are rising too, by around 3-4% (as they have done for the past few years) but there are a critical couple of numbers missing from the these raw data which haven’t been accounted for.

First, inflation in recent years has run at around 1-2% and the UK’s population is rising at approximately 1% per year, largely due to inward net migration, whereas Scotland’s population is and has long been largely static (the Scottish Government has almost no control over immigration and can do nothing about that fact).

These figures erode the UK’s real-terms revenue-per-capita growth rate to very nearly zero. George Osborne’s fastest growing economy is clearly not being felt in the pockets of the average Briton.

(It also suggests the positive effect of immigration to the UK. Those folks coming in appear to be paying their way and not being a burden on the taxpayer).

With these factors laid out, and bearing in mind that some of the feedbacks can take some time to work through the system, we can consider Scotland’s overall change in GDP (not the best single figure with which to measure an economy but it’s the one everyone uses) which, if the critical voices are correct should have taken an absolute catastrophic dive in the wake of the collapse of oil.

What has actually happened, as laid out on page 35 of the GERS figures, is that North Sea GDP has dropped by £5.67bn, from £18.2bn to £12.5bn but that the onshore economy has risen by £5.54bn (from £135bn to £141bn). The Scottish economy has shrunk in the wake of the oil crash, but by only 0.09%, or £132 million. Not bad for a country supposedly totally reliant on oil.


So now we can look a little deeper at some of the other comparisons between Scotland and the UK within GERS. Scotland’s population share of the UK is 8.3%, so any tax revenue which lies at or around 8.3% of the UK revenue can be said to be broadly similar to the UK’s receipts.

(With some very notable exceptions. It turns out that there is very little data for some taxes which disaggregates Scottish and rUK receipts. For example, VAT, National Insurance and tourist-related taxes are not noted in this way and thus, for the purposes of GERS, a straight population share is generally assumed. This should be recalled when trying to extrapolate such figures to the performance of an independent Scotland. The data simply doesn’t exist to support any such extrapolation).

As noted in an article I wrote last year, income tax, Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax remain significantly below the UK average despite Scotland having a higher employment rate than the rUK. This shortfall reflects a lower average wage (until very recently) and fewer of the very rich living in Scotland, and amounts to approximately £2.3bn potentially lost to the Scottish coffers.

This is a substantial increase over last year’s £1.7bn shortfall, and reflects the increasing concentration of the UK economy inside London and the South-East. And remember that Scotland is the second-best-performing area of the UK outside London.

(Incidentally, the absence of accurate figures in areas where Scotland does well, like tourism, and the presence of accurate ones for areas where it does less well, like income tax and Capital Gains Tax receipts, is just one of several factors that skews GERS negatively against Scotland.)


Now, if Scotland had full control over its income tax rate it could adjust banding, including the zero-rate Personal Allowance, to set rates more commensurate to the Scottish demographics and economy. We might even consider raising the minimum wage to the Living Wage to increase both the amount of income tax paid and the amount money people would have to spend in the local economy which, as we’ve seen, is the primary driver of overall economic wellbeing.

But, as we know, we’re not getting nearly that level of control. We’ll eventually be able to adjust non-PA bands but the PA is the one almost everyone falls into. Changes to that, which are the preserve of the UK government, will severely curtail the Scottish Government’s ability to use its tax powers, and of course we’re not getting any power over Corporation Tax, Capital Gains, National Insurance or VAT.

With notional control over only about 30% of Scottish income (and with severe caveats on much of that) Scotland’s economic fortunes will still be strongly tied to the whims of Westminster – another thing to remember if trying to extrapolate from GERS to the fortunes of an independent Scotland.

As last year, we can also see the “surplus” revenue within Scotland compared to the UK in tobacco, alcohol and gambling, contributing some £575m above the UK expected average – a pattern which is historically directly related to the stresses of living in an unequal society.

(Though it must be noted that this “surplus”, and indeed the total revenue from these taxes, has dropped since last year, which is – alongside a fairly flat level of health spending – potentially a positive indicator of better wellbeing within Scotland.)


On the expenditure side there’s rather less to say, as much of it has remained more or less static in recent years. The total expenditure has increased by about £900m, which means that the notional fiscal deficit (including current and capital budgets) has increased from £13.4bn last year to £14.9bn this year which represents 9.7% of GDP.

This is the number that’ll be seized on by many commentators as showing how much of a failure Scotland would be as an independent nation, but it does omit some very critical factors. Just as Westminster controls some 70% of the revenue of Scotland, it also controls more than 40% of expenditure IN Scotland (including money spent outside of, but “on behalf of”, Scotland).

This includes very large keynote items such as social protection, defence and the financing of the national debt. It is quite simply impossible to use these numbers in reference to the fortunes of an independent Scotland, as the whole point of Scottish independence is to gain control of these levers so that they can be changed.

In particular, the debt servicing figures assume that Scotland would, at the outset, take on a population share of a debt burden which was almost entirely run up outside Scotland. It’s almost inconceivable that this would actually occur – any Scottish Government which argued for it would be rightly subject to public outrage.

Similarly, “Scottish” defence spending occurs very largely outside of Scotland and one could follow the SNP’s plan to increase national defence whilst realising a very significant saving to the budget line. Or one could go further and follow the plan of others to almost entirely demilitarise – as Iceland has done – or to build an outward-looking humanitarian and aid force instead of an armed military.

Similarly, a country which paid people enough to live on might find itself with a population which doesn’t need quite so much social “protection”.

We should also consider that trying to judge any country based on one, two or even a dozen years is fairly pointless. The whole point about Scotland is that we would be in control of ourselves for generations, not just a fleeting period like the lost decade the UK has faced since the Great Recession of 2008.

Scotland remains a country under some economic strain, and without the powers to release some of that strain for ourselves. But it also remains a remarkably resilient one. All things considered, the worst (but gleefully anticipated) nightmares of the anti-independence commentariat have been averted. A huge oil crash has barely left a scratch on the nation’s balance sheet.

(It should be noted that its effects will be felt on next year’s figures too – the crash happened some months into the period which this year’s GERS cover. But there’s no fundamental reason why the same principles won’t apply, with the beneficial effects of the low price counteracting the lost revenue.)

Scotland remains full of potential if we want to use it, and independence is still a bright horizon towards which we should walk.


Dr Craig Dalzell is a Scottish Greens activist. He blogs at The Common Green.

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3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 09 03 16 18:43

    Gazing into the black hole | Speymouth

  2. 09 03 16 19:28

    Gazing into the black hole | Stuff from the Int...

  3. 08 08 16 20:32

    Winning Independence | A Wilderness of Peace

90 to “Gazing into the black hole”

  1. X_Sticks

    Excellent analysis Craig. Refreshing to see the GERS figures used rationally rather than as a stick to beat Scotland down with.

    Just imagine what we could do if we knew the real figures for Scotland without all the obfuscation applied by the UK Treasury.

  2. Murray McCallum

    That’s a clear and well written piece Craig.

    “Just as Westminster controls some 70% of the revenue of Scotland, it also controls more than 40% of expenditure IN Scotland (including money spent outside of, but “on behalf of”, Scotland).

    It’s depressing that many cannot see the potential rewards for Scotland taking control of its own resources. I guess this is no surprise given many cannot see the benefit of Scotland simply setting its own policy and spending priorities based on its own national self-interest.

    The hard-line unionists also do not seem to grasp that if Scotland truly is an economic basket case, it has happened within the UK. How can this arrangement continue to be a favourable option given Scotland’s globally comparable GDP/head?

  3. Arbroath1320

    What a difference it makes when you have someone who can sit down and explain stuff in an easy to understand way without getting all hot and bothered under the collar.

    Now I wonder how many unionists will actually read this article and more importantly UNDERSTAND it!

  4. Neil Cook

    As I posted on facebook Andrex toilet roll could write a better summary and on quality paper. I take this report and put it to use where it belongs !!

  5. Cuilean

    Was just thinking that Stu is a marvel. He’s (a) aafy nae weel, (b) tweeting awa, (c) fetching the polis tae cyber attacks on his bank account, AND (d) still has time to critique GERS all at the same time! Whit a marvel! Then I saw name on post.

    Yer still a marvel, but.

  6. Almannysbunnet

    Articles like this are the reason I come here and never buy a newspaper or listen to the BBC for “news” or analysis.


  7. jimnarlene

    Thanks for this Dr Dalzell, easily understood and informative.

  8. Ken500

    What about the 60/80% tax on the Oil sector when the price has fallen 75% . From 2011 to 2016. Stopping production, leading to thousands of job loses. Leading to an increase of Imported Oil. Losing £20Billion+.interest.

    The £4Billion a year interest Scotland Pays on money it doesn’t borrow or spend.

    £Billion spent on Trident/illegal wars. No tax on ‘loss leading’ drink putting up NHS and social costs. No tax on sugar.= £9Billion.

  9. Craig MachAonghais

    Proper journalism like this is why I haven’t bought a newspaper for over two years and stopped paying for the propaganda arm that is the BBC, instead using the funds saved to support sites like this and the wee ginger dug.

    Thank you (and the great commenters) for helping keep me relatively sane in the looking-glass world that is yoonery.

  10. Sinky

    For only the second time in 30 years Scotland isn’t subsidising the UK Treasury.

    That’s why George Osborne needs several budgets a year to correct dodgy Treasury forecasts.

  11. Sassenach

    An excellent critique of the report by Dr Dalzell, which should be printed and distributed – but I presume most of the Scotbuts would not have the sense to actually understand it.

    That’s the REAL problem, I’m afraid.

  12. brobb

    Interesting quote on Brian Taylor’s blog (BBC website)

    “Today’s exercise, GERS, ostensibly deals with economic statistics: with facts or, at least, estimated facts. However, it might also be recognised that GERS has been a political initiative from the outset.
    Formally introduced in 1992 by the then Scottish Secretary Ian Lang, it was designed – as the minister acknowledged in a leaked document – to “undermine” the UK government’s rivals.
    It was intended, in part, to demonstrate to the public that devolved self-government was A Bad Thing”

  13. Taranaich

    Great seeing this on Wings.

    I’m actually absolutely furious that the media’s entire Doom and Gloom As Oil Goes Boom campaign amounts to a 1/% difference. One. Per. Cent.

    This massive cascade, this catastrophic collapse in oil prices, led to a 1% fall.

    It’s just… what do you say to that? The UK economy shrank by 4.1% after the Financial Crisis: was anyone arguing the UK should give up its dreams of independence?

    The economy of Russia – RUSSIA – shrank by 3.2% in the first five months of 2015:

    Here’s a list of countries whose economies shrank by a greater degree than Scotland in 2015:

    Brazil = 3.8%

    Japan = 1.4%

    South Sudan = 5%
    Libya = 6%
    Burundi = 7%
    Ukraine = 9%
    Equatorial Guinea = 10%
    Venezuela = 10%
    Sierra Leone = 24%
    Yemen = 28%

    Seriously, getting fed up with this “ECONOMIC CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE DESTROYED” nonsense. All these countries are independent.

  14. Croompenstein

    @Neil Cook – You could use the Andrex to dry your eyes or wipe the shite from your yoon mooth..

  15. Balaaargh

    Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope!

    Dr Dalzell, you are wrong. All of the other party leaders know what the truth is and they have responded appropriately about how incompetent the SNP administration are and how independence would have been a complete disaster! Nicola Sturgeon STILL has no credibility anymore and how she doesn’t know anything about oil revenues! GERS clearly shows to any layman how Scotland would be completely incapable of financing itself without help from London.

    It must be true, it says so on the BBC…

  16. Awizgonny

    @ Neil Cook 5.19pm

    “As I posted on facebook Andrex toilet roll could write a better summary and on quality paper. I take this report and put it to use where it belongs !!”

    That would be for wiping your mouth, then…

  17. Donald Anderson

    Boring, boring. Just heard the ENC SPY SIX Corporation tell us that Scotland is down compared to the rest of the Yookay. No STV say down twice as much …

  18. carjamtic

    Right on cue,The Northern Lights appear,shining colour and light into the Doom…..and what do we see ?

    Yoons,cowering in the shadows,muttering amongst themselves…….’Scotland Baaaad,Toooo Weee,Toooo Stooopid,Toooo Pooor….’

    Cheers for this de-bunking,most Illuminating 😉

  19. Capella

    So now we need to repatriate the other 70% of the revenues controlled by Westminster. The lost opportunity costs must be astronomical by now. As high as the Norwegian oil fund.

  20. Robert Louis

    Excellent piece of writing.

    On a day, when the nutters of the ‘too poor, too wee, too stupid’ Scottish unionists are screaming to the world that THEIR country, Scotland, is a quite exceptional and unique economic basket case, the actual opposite seems to be true.

    Indeed, for the next indy referendum, what has happened to the oil price over the last year is a blessing in disguise. We now know, that if independent, and should oil crash, the Scottish economy is resilient enough to cope, and, it appears, the knock on benefits of lower oil prices can actually be beneficial to the Scottish economy.

    This is important, as it nails forever, the notion that Scotland ‘can’t survive without the oil’. If anything, today’s figures go to show, that actually Scotland is a strong diverse, resilient economy, which can weather economic storms and plummeting oil prices well.

    Today, the myth has been nailed. Scotland can survive perfectly well, without being run by the undemocratic, unwanted, corrupt and corrupting colonial London Government.

  21. Colin Rippey

    Three articles on GERS in one day and we *still* do not have an answer to the most important question:

    How do you pronounce GERS?

    Do you pronounce it like “Geronimo” or do you pronounce it like “getitrightupye”?

  22. Bob Mack

    I’m purring like the Queen,because I know you are right Craig.

    Time Scottish MP’S had access to the Treasury books I think.

  23. bjsalba

    Been reading The Common Green (and recommending it to friends) for quite a while now.

  24. Brian McHugh

    It is quite simple when you look to whether Westminster’s modus operandi is to support Scottish success, or undermine it.

    Occam provides that answer with his razor.

  25. yesindyref2

    It’s good to see this article. And in general it’s good to see an article from a Green here. There is of course an election coming up and rattling of spears, but we need to keep in sight that for Indy Ref 2 we’ll all be working together again. Anyway, a couple of points:

    GERS methodology improves every year, the latest I think is to take some diaggregated figures from the HMRC rather than the Treasury. This improves the figures, but also makes it harder comparing year to year as in 2014-15 against 2013-14 etc. A point made in consultations, but I think better accuracy is always desirable.

    Secondly as a summary, any revenue or expenditure that is based on our per capita share of “per capita” figure for the whole UK, is inherently inaccurate, as it doesn’t reflect “regional” variances. That is where the Treasury coninues (delberately) to let down a devoloved UK, and even every region within England.

    Yes, the Personal Allowance not being in this latest package of devolution is a blow. But the higher and additional thresholds are to be devolved – and are well usable.

  26. A. MacAlister

    Misreporting Scotland tonight has trotted out the £15bn black hole lie, with no balancing arguments. This is why a Scottish Six must be produced by an independent production company with all new journalists and paid for by the BBC. Stuart Cosgrove could maybe tender for it.

  27. yesindyref2

    This is also a point where direct comparisons are not easy, and I couldn’t make out for sure whether GERS allows for it – or not, though I think it does:

    Scotland?s relatively large share of UK GOS [9.8%] is primarily due to Scottish Water, which is a large contributor to UK public corporations? GOS.

  28. louis.b.argyll

    Excellent report..

    .. Seemingly, more black holes avoided.

  29. ScottieDog

    Good explanation of where we are at.


    We still focus on deficits as being undesirable with opposing parties fighting over who would successfully produce a govt surplus.
    Yet a govt saving as things stand means that we in the private sector have to go into further debt in order to grow the economy.
    With private debt approaching levels of 2008 it’s very easy to see what happens next. This link is to slightly old data but it is very revealing..

    Let’s stop talking thatcher economics please.

    As far as I’m concerned Scotland can have any deficit it likes provided it has its own currency.

  30. heedtracker

    Terrific read. Jump in anywhere

    “In particular, the debt servicing figures assume that Scotland would, at the outset, take on a population share of a debt burden which was almost entirely run up outside Scotland.”

    Why is this not part of the general day to day discourse in Scotland?

    Britnats are going completely berserk with GERS tonight. As per, rancid The Graun most nasty in England. In Scotland, BBC, holy fcuk are they going for UKOK glory. Maybe they think this is their #SNPout moment, where they finally turn back the tide and teach us a vote Dugdale SLab lesson we’ll never forget, style of Britnat media madness.

  31. Dr Jim

    If the big UK with the broad shoulders and the safety and strength of their economy is slashing to the bone everything in sight

    Mibbees anybody who would doubt that Scotland hasn’t been subsidising the UK for the last 36 years might have a wee think that George Osborne can’t manage Englands economy without oil revenues

    And then when he got them, Peed them up against a nuclear submarine and spent the rest on a few wars and English infrastructure that has sod all to do with Scotland

    But hey, we still paid for it
    And at least some of our fish on the Clyde are easier to catch now that they glow in the dark

    For the first time in 36 years and listen to them squeal with orgasmic delight that Scotlands economy is down 1%
    They should be apologising to Scotland for abusing the finances of the country

    In any other area of business Osborne and those who preceded him would have been sacked if not jailed for mis management or embezzlement and misuse of company funds

    Anybody taken in by this pile of steaming cow expulsion deserves their future in Yoondom and long may they breathe it in

    God save the very neutral purring big gub and her Ministers to the Crown

    Your servile Shitebags
    Yoon Scotland

  32. Andrew Mclean

    Craig MachAonghais
    You haven’t bought a newspaper in years, for gods sake man, do you not know what you are missing! First we had SNP bad Then when they realised that wasn’t working we had SNP really BAD, of course that failed then we had SNP ate my hamster, sorry of topic, We had had SNP PoLice probe, just like a real police probe, but without the actual police, who having been pissed off that the person was robbed were disinclined to help the “prep” in their lingo, so we moved on to SNP, .. now for the sake of brevity please insert your own words (Late Middle English ((in the sense ‘disaster and distress’):):from Old French calamite, from Latin calamitas.) that’s for the journalists:-)

    And Craig if you think no adult would actually sell a newspaper with that poop then think again!

    Yes you too could have a newspaper, just think you would be the envy of your close, “see him there he is a newspaper magnate” would be the cry all you have to do is suck jakes pals nob and you would be OK, in fact you would be UkOk wich in uk ok,news is ” how’s about that then boys and girls ” See how I fixed it for you BBC?

    Anyhow that so 70’s. We’ve moved on, we then had “shock and awe” ie mas murder as a video game analogy, wow we. Exclaimed as the bombing hit the bunkers where the innocent laying trembling in fear, pray, clutching their children close, God help me the cried.

    Lucky our smart bombs fell, divested themselves from there metal jacket, knocked ever so polite, as gents are wont to do, one in done in the bad gaffers, then ascended a copter, stopping only to shag a comely dusky wrench, obviously looking for Holyrood!

    Naw that did not happen.

    I can’t tell you what did in case I radicalise you.

    Hey didn’t you know that a SNP MP once had a job, well apparently that’s newspapers for you.

  33. Robert Graham

    Yep right on cue ,BBC (Pacific heights) branch office leading with the near miss or to give its official Title Disaster averted by brave NO voters , I would have thought they might have went with George & Dave getting their arses handed to them by those pesky nats in westminster voting down Sunday Trading extension in Engerlund would have been more appropriate just a thought .

  34. Dandy Dons 1903

    Reporting Shortbread could hardly contain its glee about the news tonight, no balance, no alternative view, just spouting the Colonial line about a discredited Westminster system designed to keep Scotland deceived. Another reason added to the many as to why the BBC need to be thrown out of Scotland.

  35. Marcia

    A very good read that is not full of jargon.

    P.s. Good on the SNP Parliamentarians at Westminster voting to defeat the Tory Government on Sunday Trading.

  36. DerekM

    Thanks for the article Dr Craig Dalzell it must have ruffled a few feathers as all the yoon zoomers have crawled out from under their stones and are giving it the big but but but if you were independent it would be worse nonsense.

    When are you yoon zoomers going to take some responsibility for the present hmmmm,and how many times have we got to tell you THIS IS THE UK MODEL not an independent Scottish one.

    Though if you want us to take over and be independent so we can maybe make an arse of it then i am sure we would be happy to oblige.

    But then we can wait we have waited a long time and we are not going away there is no box we burned it.

  37. yesindyref2

    What the Unionists won’t be pointing out tonight is that the UK i.e. Osborne is not doing very well with his forecasts, that the UK deficit will be higher this year than planned, that he is looking to make even more savage cuts, needs £4 billion probably mostly because of the drop in oil revenue, and even the likes of Brian Ashcroft is disgusted at his austerity measures which clearly aren’t working.

    Brian Ashcroft of course being a support of Independence. Oh, he isn’t.

    So the Unionists are complaineing because our deficit would have been as high as 9.7%, whereas others are complaining that the UK’s is too low at 4.9%.

    I wish they’d all tell us the “magic” figure. The EU used to think it was 3%, but look what’s happening there …

  38. ScottieDog

    a great video destroying the economic myths by which we are running the UK.
    Well worth a watch…

    Hopefully after watching folk won’t be so keen to obsess over deficits.

  39. Andrew Mclean

    Ok , let’s get this straight, I failed my English o level, so sue me, steady Rowling, don’t get al slobberingly wetlands scrumptious,

    Person was actually pension, wow! Who’s stealing from bobbies pension ,? , poop is shite obviously! ,,
    Read the rest as you will,
    Grammar, if you’re child was burned alive, grammar would be the last problem to deal with.

    Question if labour are so proud, why is blair and brown not in the lords, …. Really the last two prime ministers of the U.K. So tarnished they can’t sit amoungst the dizzy heights of the Barron bra, cheap labour, or feel a kids arsenal, coughing arsenal, or any of the other reprobates,

    Fuck they must have done bad, …..

  40. Dan Huil

    bbc in Scotland once again doesn’t even bother to try and hide its britnat bias.

  41. bjsalba

    Giddy-o is doing rather more (or perhaps less) than his predictions, see or an assessment.

  42. Casper1066

    Happy to read something which doesn’t leave you scratching your head. 1% wow you think from the MSM the earth had rumbled.

  43. Jim McElhill

    Very good piece Chris. In depth journalism is alive and well at WoS. The MSM has become so tabloid that I doubt if they actually trust each other.

  44. Jimmy The Pie

    I saw the headline GERS article in the Torygraph and immediately came here to find out the truth.

    Thanks for that

  45. Macart

    Great dissection and analysis Craig.

    Many thanks.

  46. Robert McSevney

    Remember that gers was founded by the Torys to put Scotland down

  47. call me dave

    Good article putting the whole thing into context.

    There is no reason why an independent Scotland cannot succeed.

    SNP x 2


    SNP accused of hypocrisy after Government loses vote on Sunday trading laws

  48. Chic McGregor

    Enough of GERS time for Newco Scotland.

  49. Andrew McLean I

    It’s ironic, the best economic debate,maybe by a green today, I got the backlash of 14001, anyway green, would I liove them,

    Can we hold off right know till after the revolution?

  50. Davy

    The one really good thing about today, is that the people of Scotland got to see the unionists in their true colours, basicly dancing about with joy at what they thought was Scotlands downfall.

    This showed everyone that the union parties actually don’t give a shite about Scotland, they would rather have their own country be seen as a failure than work towards its success.

    Those sad fucks will get their comeupance on May the 5th when the people of Scotland get the chance to vote them into oblivion.

    Hell mend the unionist bastards, its what they deserve.

    SNP x 2

  51. proudscot

    The Northern Branch Office’s economic genius, Jackie “Porkies” Baillie is at this moment wiping the pie grease off her magic abracadabracus, so she can churn out fantasy figures made up on the hoof, for Kezia’s weekly interminable gobbledegook ramblings (cunningly disguised as Questions to the First Minister)!

  52. thomaspotter2014


    Scottish Independence coming to a country near you very soon!

    Nudge Nudge Wink wink.

  53. Arbroath1320

    Sorry for O/T.

    Here is the line up for BBC Question time tomorrow night in Dundee folks.

    Ruth “I’m a leetle tankette driver” Davidson

    Jenny “Who?” Marra

    Willie “wish I was driving a bus” Rennie

    Patrick “where’s my pushbike” Harvie

    Tim ” Torygragh rools OK” Stanley

    John “hold me back or I’ll kill ’em all” Swinney

  54. Macart


    “John “hold me back or I’ll kill ’em all” Swinney”

    LOL 😀

    Love it.

  55. Petra

    STV was making a meal of the Gers figures on STV news at 6 tonight. Convincing to the point that I wonder how many voters will be thanking God that they voted No for Independence in 2014.

    So convincing in fact that I wonder how many prior Yes voters will vote No to Independence in future.

    I’ve sent off an email (complaint) to them and included some data. I wish others would think of doing so too.

  56. Col

    BBC jockland using the same language as Labour do when describing Scotland’s deficit as a BLACK HOLE. Woooooooh, so dramatic but exactly what we’ve come to expect, I also noticed how the said the SNP voted with the Tory rebels with no mention of labour in the same sentence so it just looks like they are in bed with the tories line they’ve been promoting lately. .
    When are they stopping broadcasting? If the SNP get a majority in the next election I really hope they recognise the power they hold and start a major fightback like many of us have been waiting for.

  57. Iain

    O/t Thankfully I’m one of the growing band of Scots that no longer watch the bbc. Roll on the day they are replaced. The Dumblane cover up continues.

  58. Arbroath1320

    Glad you liked that one Macart. 😀

    I just had the image of John getting set about the Poisoned Dwarf and Dumfries and Galloway council over payments to home owners and businesses during floods in Dumfries. 😀

  59. Iain More

    @Neil Cook

    Awa and wipe yer twa holes then because the Yoon diarrhoea is coming from both of them!

  60. Macart


    Spookily that’s the very image that came to mind when Mrs M and I were laughing at your post. The only time I’ve ever seen John set the class in order and all the more shock and awe for it.

    Hell mend them if they get on his wrong side on QT.

  61. Iain More

    Right on time the Scotland hating Brit Nats slither out from under their rocks to do jigs of glee at what they perceive to be Scottish woes.

    Meanwhile on Dunblane – the one question not being asked by the treacherous Brit Nat BBC is WHY is there a 99 year effin D-Notice on the shooting – WHY?

  62. galamcennalath

    The colonial media are having a field day talking down Scotland.

    What else would we expect? Why should that surprise anyone?

    They are just doing their job, after all.

  63. Arbroath1320

    curtseys 😀

    I have to admit I have NEVER seen John Swinney react in the way he did that day ever before.

    What made the whole episode even funnier was that Joan McAlpine had drawn the council over the coals during the weekend. On the Monday they put up a notice on their site advising those in need of financial assistance what to do.

    Then, UNBELIEVABLY, on the Tuesday the Poisoned Dwarf opened her gob and ended up being on the WRONG end of a strip tearing session from John. 😀

    For those not aware of what Macart and I are wittering on about I give you Ladies and Gentlemen, for one night only, the Poisoned Dwarf put down show! 😀

  64. Big Jock

    Don’t you just love media election mode. When the whole establishment gangs up on Scotland’s viability and the SNP. It really is groundhog day.

    The oil revenues and taxes have never filtered through Scotland. They go to the exchequer. So who’s blackhole is it? Oh well it’s Scotland’s when it’s failing and Londons when it’s making wonga for dodgy dealers in the city.

    The only people constantly reliving the referendum are the media. They say that the blackmore proves Scotland would have failed after independence. We aren’t independent so the argument is false. Scotlands problems are the UKs as well. After all we pull and share do we not.

  65. Tam Jardine

    Good article- well written and very important.

    I would love to see the income and revenue tables with the figures in one colour that we know, we can calculate exactly and are not simply estimates based on population or some convoluted methodology.

    The unionists have all seemingly ejaculated in unison today in a frenzy of derision. ‘Look how shit Scotland is’ ‘look how poor we are are’ ‘look how poor we will always be’ ‘our economy is fucked’. At the pinnacle of almost 310 years of union.

    So we need to keep everything exactly the same as we are doing so well it seems. I have to say I get a bit lost looking at figures that purport to be very specific but in many cases in a mere devolved part of a unitary authority are simply guesswork.

    Take the defence spending allocated to Scotland. £3.019 billion for Scotland region. Our landmass and coastal waters make up a fairly substantial chunk of the UK’s. How many troops are based in Scotland defending us? How many planes are based here? How many naval vessels are based here?

    How many of the royal naval vessels are in our waters right now, defending our coastline, our fisheries, our oil and gas fields?

    I was trying to get the info on marine traffic- I could see a minesweeper and a warship up by faslane and that was it. I exclude trident as I can’t see that as defending anything.

    Assigning £3019 million per year to Scotland region when there seems to be so little in the way of defence up here is bullshit.

    Trident is not a defensive weapon and I can see absolutely no reason why we should not only pay for it but have the crippling cost assigned to the balance sheet of our ‘economy’. Call it ‘extra-regio’ if you want but it is simply dishonest to assign military spending which is the eighth highest per capita in the world to a country with such a small military presence to show for it.

    We pay for 3 parliaments and the old foulkes’ home, the armed forces who are barely present, the abomination at faslane and coulport, the excesses of the royals and a foreign office who actively campaigned against my country’s self determination. Assigning per capita expenses to areas we gain nothing from is ridiculous and provide a completely distorted figure.

  66. ArtyHetty

    Great to read this, I just hope that a few no voters venture onto Wings tonight, to gloat at us all greetin about Scotland’s terrible situation, thanking our lucky stars for the broad shoulders of UKok, and avoiding catastrophe from the falling oil price. Oh what a lucky escape we had, the North Brits will be saying.

    I would have thought that given todays ‘news’, Scotland being an even bigger basket case, and their MPs having the cheek to vote against Sunday trading extensions in England, ( wonder what the backlash will be) that the unionists would be chomping at the bit to say, ‘that’s it, had enough of you scroungers, we want you to go’. Boo hoo.

    I just hope that our MPs can make a difference in other areas of UKok’s parliament, as after all, they told us that we are, ‘equal in this union of nations’.

  67. msean

    Good read.

  68. Macandroid

    So if cheap oil is beneficial to Scotland’s economy would it be at all possible to have a Scottish nationalised oil company able to sell oil at subsidised prices locally while selling the surplus on the open market?

    This may of course not be feasible and I can’t get my hands on Jackie Baillie’s calculator ( I think she’s sitting on it ) to do any meaningful calculations!

    BTW great article. Thanks

  69. Arbroath1320

    Tam I think I’d ignore the minesweeper and mine hunter, They will more than likely be up at Faslane for exercises. In terms of actual Naval ships on patrol protecting our “assets” in Scotland and North Sea I think the number is … erm … ZERO.

    As R.A.F. Lossiemouth is the only RAF airfield operationsl in Scotland then from the list below I have found THREE squadrons of Typhoons, so far, that operate out of Lossie.

  70. Clootie

    Thank you for an excellent article.

    It highlights the bias of our media once again. They manipulate and distort reports to mislead the public.

    An article such as this gives balance to the economic picture instead of amplifying a single area as if it represented the full report.

    Once again no mention by our unionist media that a Scottish budget would not be a scale copy of Westminster. Weapons of mass destruction would not be our priority. We would have an Oil fund that would balance our risk to external market forces minimising our exposure to a plunging 0.09percent crash.

    These recent years have seen the demise of journalism and it’s replacement by reliable sources on the Internet. We have learned that the media mislead by manipulation of headlines while the Internet blogs provide links to source material.

    …I know who I trust!

  71. Les Wilson

    Great stuff Stu, the kind we all respect.
    Wall to wall Yoonery going on, BBC probably the worst.
    As I stated in a previous post, Our MPs should demand access to all aspects of Scottish true GDP, and put in a proven team of experts to find out what is manipulated and what is hidden from view.

    If they do not give us access, then our MPs should raise hell down there. We know we are being cheated, we need to find the info.

  72. Macandroid


    Agreed and we could keep the Trident subs but scrap the missiles. Nobody need know and if they can never be used why bother with the expense of replacing them?

  73. Tam Jardine


    I read on wikipedia the defensive vessels based in Scotland and there were 2 astute class subs, 7 minesweepers and 2 tiny wee patrol boats. So even if all the vessels based on the Clyde were on the Clyde or patrolling our waters (which almost none of them are) we would be outgunned by even the most modest force.

    My intention on independence would be to give westminster a punitive quote for decommissioning trident (or they can take delivery immediately), take that £3019 million annual spend, slash it and put in charge of the Scottish Defence Force a patriotic Scot who knows the military inside out. Any candidates spring to mind Lesley?

  74. K1

    Thank you Craig.

  75. Arbroath1320

    Oh I dunno Tam … gie me a minute or two and I may come up with someone. 😀

  76. David

    Scotland only gets 80% of North Sea Revenue, according to GERS figures shown in the third pic?

    Surely we should have over 90%, based on location of oil & gas production rigs in Scottish waters. A figure above 90% is the one I normally see quoted as our geographic share of UK’s North Sea oil & gas resources.

    Are the GERS figures cheating Scotland out of our full share? Or is there a wee bonus of extra 10% oil to be dug up in a future Indy Scot?

    Try this House of Lords report:
    “Most witnesses agreed that Scotland would gain approximately 90% of the oil and gas reserves.”

  77. Peter Clive

    GERS just reinforces unionist control strategies:

  78. yesindyref2

    That was pretty cool. The NASA site that gives dates, times and where to look, from, to, and degrees above horizon for your location (nearest town):

  79. Barry Haniford

    ‘This has caused Scottish oil revenues to drop from £4bn in 2013-14 to £1.8bn in the 2014-15 figures. A £2bn “black hole” in the accounts, if you will.’

    So the BBC arguement is that 11% of £4bn (£440million) is less than 100% of £1.8bn (£1,800million) – interesting arithmetic!

    Even if it was I’d rather be 1% poorer and live in a better and fairer country.

  80. Phil Robertson

    Firstly, some credit for considering the overall figures (rather than the myopic analysis of the revenue numbers elsewhere) but the deficit does present the real challenge.

    On current expenditure the Scottish number is about 20% of the UK total. The implication for an independent Scotland in this would be its credit rating in international markets where it might want to raise borrowing.

    Your solutions for how things might improve do raise questions.
    “This includes very large keynote items such as social protection, defence and the financing of the national debt.

    In particular, the debt servicing figures assume that Scotland would, at the outset, take on a population share of a debt burden which was almost entirely run up outside Scotland. It’s almost inconceivable that this would actually occur – any Scottish Government which argued for it would be rightly subject to public outrage.”

    That’s being a bit naive – to paraphrase, any rUK government which allowed a “soft” option for Scotland on debt interest would be subject to public outrage.

    “Similarly, “Scottish” defence spending occurs very largely outside of Scotland and one could follow the SNP’s plan to increase national defence whilst realising a very significant saving to the budget line.”
    The impact of defence spending is routinely overestimated. Removing it entirely would knock about a one-third of the deficit.

    “Similarly, a country which paid people enough to live on might find itself with a population which doesn’t need quite so much social “protection”.”
    Social protection includes state and public sector pensions, housing, child and other benefits, and social care for elderly and children. With the exception of some of the benefits, none of these is alleviated by tinkering about with wages.

    Brave man if you are suggesting cuts to pensions!

  81. gus1940

    Can I suggest the following exercise be carried out and it would only be for starters.

    Scottish Governmnt to set up an audit team to investigate the accounts of every business trading in Princes St.most of which are HQd in England and will no doubt have centralised computer systems.


    a) How much VAT is remitted to HMRC for each outlet and how much of that is shown separately for Scotland and included in GERS?

    b) How much of the staff Tax and NI for each outlet is shown separately for Scotland and included in GERS?

    c) It is unlikely that the profit made by each outlet in a multi-outlet is not calculated separately. In that case making allowance for HQ admin costs is the profit made in the Scottish outlet credited to GERS in respect of tax due on said profit.

    d) Is any calculation made of the Import Duty collected in England in respect of goods from outwith The EU which are subseqently sold in Scotland and is said amount added to GERS?


    As regards VAT paid to HMRC from one of the outlets it must be remembered that while the end purchaser pays a whole 20% of the VAT on any item paid the retailer only has to pay HMRC 20% of the retail mark up and even then referring to (a) above even that may not be credited to GERS.

    eg – A person buys a TV at £600.
    Of that £600 he pays VAT of £100.
    The retailer say buys the TV from their HQ for £416.66 +20% VAT of £83.34.
    In respect of that purchase the retailer pays HMRC 20% of the VAT on the mark up (20% of £83.84) i.e. £16.16
    And so back thru to the Importer and Import Tax.

    So, in spite of the purchaser Paying £100 VAT the most that GERS can be credited with on the purchase is £16.16 see (a) above.

    Not only that but any Import Duty which will be built into the selling price is also paid by the purchaser.

    So in purchasing the TV of his £100 VAT £83.84 goes straight to HMRC and is not credited to GERS leaving £16.16 which may or may not be credited to GERS depending on how the company accounts for their VAT payments.

    I hope that my understanding of the VAT system is correct. If not could somebody who does know the system
    provide the true story of what happens with the above sample purchase.

  82. Robert Peffers

    @ Dr Craig Dalzell:

    Who stated within the article, “… This has caused Scottish oil revenues to drop from £4bn in 2013-14 to £1.8bn in the 2014-15 figures. A £2bn “black hole” in the accounts, if you will.”

    Perhaps it would have been clearer to have said, This has caused Scottish oil “RAISED” revenues to drop from £4bn in 2013-14 to £1.8bn in the 2014-15 figures. A £2bn “black hole” in the accounts, if you will.”

    Factually the revenues are not actually, “Scottish”. For, in the eyes of HM Government, they are accounted as raised from, “Extra-Regio-Territory”. As such they are claimed as United Kingdom Treasury Revenue.

    Even although around 95% of the total Extra-Regio-Territory raised revenue comes from Scottish geographic territory.

  83. Robert Peffers

    @Murray McCallum says: 9 March, 2016 at 5:17 pm:

    “That’s a clear and well written piece Craig.”

    Amen to that, Murry, and how refreshing to get sane analysis of the guesstimates, wrong assumptions and downright pish spewed out by the Establishment propaganda Machinery urged on by the EVEL Westminster Parliamentary boorach .

  84. Robert Peffers

    @Arbroath1320 says: 9 March, 2016 at 5:18 pm:

    ” … Now I wonder how many unionists will actually read this article and more importantly UNDERSTAND it!”

    When I read your comment, Arbroath1320, a wee thought ran through my head and I’ve been laughing about it ever since.

    The thought was, “After watching FMQs today I wonder if any of the unionist opposition party leaders and MSPs ay Holyrood Understand it”.

  85. Robert Peffers

    @Almannysbunnet says: 9 March, 2016 at 5:26 pm:

    “Articles like this are the reason I come here and never buy a newspaper or listen to the BBC for “news” or analysis.”

    Talking of which I really think BBC Radio Scotland reached the lowest sustained point of absurdity this morning.


  86. Robert Peffers

    @Colin Rippey says: 9 March, 2016 at 6:32 pm:

    “Three articles on GERS in one day and we *still* do not have an answer to the most important question:

    How do you pronounce GERS?

    Do you pronounce it like “Geronimo” or do you pronounce it like “getitrightupye”?”

    Does it matter, Colin, especially for those who haven’t a clue what they are. They have never been other than a fairly transparent exercise in Westminster propaganda and we independence supporters have known the truth since the first batch of GERS figures were released.

    The first point made, way back then, was those are guesstimates and not very good ones at that. A half decent primary one pupil could see the truth. But here’s you worried about how to pronounce A mnemonic.

    Here is a definition, (from Wiki), of, “Mmnemonic”.

    “a mnemonic is a a well known memory aid or learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory. Mnemonics aim to translate information into a form that the brain can retain better than its original form.

    Commonly encountered mnemonics are often used for lists and in auditory form, such as short poems, acronyms, or memorable phrases, but mnemonics can also be used for other types of information and in visual or kinesthetic forms.

    Their use is based on the observation that the human mind more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual, humorous, or otherwise “relatable” information, rather than more abstract or impersonal forms of information.”

    Now ask yourself just how expert are the Unionist numptie down at Westminster who are at present going through a phase of daft sounding mnemonics, such as, “Brexit”?
    That’s just one wee example of the Westminster expertise.

    If they are such great experts why on Earth do they needs rely upon mnemonics to remember simple phrases as, “British Exit”. In fact the mnemonic shows them as total numpties for even if they managed to take us out of the EU Britain would not be what was leaving for Britain is not under the control of Westminster.

    Westminster is, “A”, British Legislature – it is not, “THE”, Legislature of Britain for there is no such legislature. NO MATTER HOW YOU PRONOUNCE IT.

  87. Phil Robertson

    Brexit is not a mnemonic. It is a blend word. Some might also see it as a portmanteau word which is debatable.

    Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is a mnemonic (and a Moody Blues album).

  88. Dr Craig Dalzell

    Thanks for all the feedback folks. I deeply appreciate it.

    It’s been a bit strange seeing quotes and memes based on the article pop up places.

    I’d like to address a couple of points brought up in the thread.

    yesindyref2 commented on income tax thresholds being well usable despite the lack of power on PA. I agree and would well suggest a future government considers re-adjusting bands and rates to suit Scottish (rather than UK) wage distribution.
    The only issue is that PA is the band that almost everyone falls into thus is the most powerful one to adjust. I can see a conflict of interest occurring over this between Holyrood and Westminster.

    Phil Robertson made a point about the social protection bit. I realise that I should have expanded a bit on what was a throw-away point. It would indeed be a “courageous” politician who suggested cutting pensions but things like tax credits and housing benefit are directly linked to chronically low wages and those are the areas I could see reducing naturally once we started actually paying workers. Common Weal has had a lot to say on those points specifically.

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