2007 - 2022

GERS: or, A Wayward Exercise in the Capricious

moneytalk2The most important matter regarding GERS is not the output, the ‘figures’, the so-called facts; the most important matter is the methodology used to create them. Without a sound, dependable, stable methodology we have nothing: nothing.

The methodology is provided in ‘Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland: Detailed Revenue Methodology Paper 2014-15’ ( The Methodology Paper “outlines the various methodologies used to obtain estimates of public sector revenues in Scotland”. The reference to “various methodologies” is a warning that this is going to prove complicated, and so it soon proves.

“In contrast to public sector expenditure, there is no generic best approach to estimating public sector revenue; instead each revenue is estimated using a separate methodology. This paper discusses the methodology used to apportion a share of each revenue stream to Scotland and highlights any significant changes which have been introduced in this edition of GERS. It should be noted that, as the underlying datasets used in GERS have been subject to revisions and updates, estimates may differ from previous editions of GERS even if the methodology remains unchanged” (GERS Methodology Paper p.1).

I can think of few introductions to a methodology less likely to provide confidence in the result. Each sentence in the above preliminary statement identifies both complexity and a shifting base; even the past is subject to “revisions and updates” (numerous?). There is no “generic best approach”. “Even if the methodology remains unchanged” implies the very methodology may change between datasets. It seems that everything is subject to change in this shifty, Heracletean river of subjective financial interpretation. All this qualification from the outset somewhat diminishes the credibility of the methodology that is so apologetically being promoted; and we have not even reached the ‘Methodology Overview’ yet. However the output from this doubtful methodology is claimed by the British Government with extravagant insistence to be meaningful, and to throw light on Scotland’s economy.

The GERS Methodology Overview explains that the majority of public sector receipts raised in Scotland are collected at the UK level by HM Revenue and Customs: “collected at the UK level” we may suspect carries the risk that some fairly rough-and-ready disaggregations are going to be applied to the data; and so it turns out.

“In some cases, revenue figures can be obtained for Scotland directly. Examples include local government revenues and particular elements of public corporation revenues. Such taxes are the exception and separate identification of most other revenues for Scotland is not possible. GERS therefore uses a number of different methodologies to apportion tax revenues to Scotland. In doing so, there are often theoretical and practical challenges in determining an appropriate share to allocate to Scotland. In certain cases, a variety of alternative methodologies could be applied each leading to different estimates.Obtaining an estimate of public sector revenues in Scotland is a two-stage process. In the first stage, the UK outturn figure for each stream of revenue is obtained from ONS Public Sector Finance Statistics. In the second stage, Scotland’s share of the UK figure is estimated according to a specific apportionment methodology. The methodology used differs for each element of revenue. However, in general, the information comes from survey data for the UK” (GERS Methodology Paper p.3).

The public revenues that are directly identifiable for Scotland “are the exception”. Separate identification of many “revenues for Scotland is not possible”. This means that creative, interpretive accounting of one kind or another (with all the hostages to fortune, or worse this may conjure) is going to be required to identify the huge gaps in the information. At this point, wisdom would dictate that ‘the game is up’ and there is a requirement to abandon a bad proposition and begin again with serious intent to identify the real facts: to assemble the underlying, real data by more direct means; not to create the facts by exception, but to find them. Neither of these quite obvious necessities cut any ice in Britain today. This is Scotland, crude shortcuts are not only permissible, but compulsory. What happens is that the existing data is made to fit the purpose, even though clearly, they don’t; no matter what.

Thus figures are being presented for Scotland using this “methodology” (actually methodologies), that do not actually exist. There are also “theoretical and practical challenges” (by implication either insurmountable in nature or, more likely, there is no inclination to overcome them) in determination of the estimates, and different methodologies could lead to different results. Notice also that “the information comes from survey data for the UK”. Survey data for the UK is being used, in order to establish the actual public sector/Government Revenues for Scotland. The methodology is detaching the exercise from reality as a matter of intent. It begins to appear that using the ostensibly authoritative term “methodology” to describe this Westminster inspired and wayward exercise in the capricious, is something of an adventurously exaggerated description of the status of the underlying facts.

Some of the large UK sources of revenue in taxation in GERS (Corporation Tax, VAT and so on) are sourced from HMRC (see for example, GERS Methodology Paper, p.4-5). When we turn to the HMRC ‘A disaggregation of HMRC tax receipts between England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland: Methodology Note’ (October 2015) the better to understand this, we find, by now with a sinking feeling of inevitablility, that the Methodology Overview is carrying us precisely nowhere. Indeed it is preceded by a “Disclaimer”, which I have reproduced in full:

“This publication apportions total UK tax receipts to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It attempts to measure the true economic incidence of taxation, based on the underlying activity, which can often differ from how or where the tax receipts are collected. Actual administrative data is available for Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Child and Working Tax Credits and Child Benefit; for the others, the estimates are arrived at using best available data and statistical techniques, including assumptions and adjustments where necessary. The numbers in this publication do not represent an estimate of the tax revenue that would be raised if each tax was set at the devolved level. All statistical methodologies have an inherent degree of uncertainty and, for this publication, a variety of alternate methodologies could justifiably be applied, each leading to a different estimate” (HMRC Methodology Note, p.2).

The output of this fantastical exercise includes “assumptions and adjustments” (many of which we will never see the detail) and a gratuitous but telling acknowledgement that they “do not represent an estimate of the tax revenue that would be raised if each tax was set at the devolved level”. In other words, what is the point? It seems in practical terms – none. Indeed the last sentence of the above quotation, that introduces a little unexpected, direct candour about what is actually going on in this Kafkaesque exercise (different methodologies would produce different estimates), provides us with a cast-iron guarantee that precisely nothing is being guaranteed by this whole methodological circus.

The HMRC Methodology Overview merely adds layers of potential obfuscation to our perplexity. First we are introduced to ‘complexity’, then we are reminded of the reliance on “survey” data, followed by the sudden introduction of a strange new idea:

“We have also sought, wherever possible, to use HMRC’s administrative data but this is not always available at the required level of geographical disaggregation; in those cases, estimates have been made on the basis of a proxy activity, for which the data is available” (HMRC Methodology Note: Overview, para., 2, p.4).

We now have “proxy” data; presumably a kind of virtual reality. It isn’t real but it looks plausible. No doubt this makes the political masters feel better; a proxy reality is something they understand, live with, manipulate and with the help of a complicit media, rely on day in, day out.

The HMRC Methodology Overview also reveals not only that survey data is used, but in using this source “there are often multiple sources of error, such as sampling, non-response and measurement error, which we assume are consistent across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland” (HMRC Methodology Note: Overview, para., 4, p.4). All this is the truism of statistics, but it does not add to confidence in the underlying data. In at least one example (LCF Survey) the survey data is not even used “directly”. The problem here is that in disaggregating the data, “the estimates increase in uncertainty”. The Overview seeks to reassure that the alternative used is satisfactory, but has to acknowledge that “there is also a drawback due to imperfect alignment between some estimation dates and survey dates, though the effect of this is typically quite small” (HMRC Methodology Note: Overview, para., 4, p.4-5). All this is no doubt true but it adds nothing to the accuracy of the output, nor does it inform, elucidate or add to our knowledge of the facts in any constructive or substantive way. Each adjustment, each alignment, each proxy, each indirect application, each assumption takes us further and further from reality.

In the GERS methodology much is made of adjusting the data to fit the accrual basis of accounting, because;

“accruals accounting reflects a more accurate picture of when revenue is due and spending occurs than the more volatile alternative of cash, which, for example, records when bills are settled rather than when the expenditure occurs” (GERS Methodology Paper p.3).

It is perhaps unkind to suggest that this reveals a rather quaint and unconsidered formal confidence in the somewhat antiquated metaphysics of financial accountancy theory, but the challenge to comprehension does not end there. The GERs decision on this policy does not appear to sit happily with this observation in the HMRC Methodology Overview:

“Several taxes are normally reported on the basis of the accrual of tax liability. Where possible the estimates here have been adjusted to fit to the receipts profile” (HMRC Methodology Note: Overview, para., 2, p.4).

At this point a fair minded citizen attempting to understand the meaning of this exercise may well decide the effort is wasted, but this is not the end of the problems. Annex B (HMRC UK Tax Recepts Methodology) reveals under the un-nerving heading “Data Quality” that recondite adjustments are made to reconcile approaches of HMRC with the NAO (who audit, it seems on a cash basis):

“At the end of each year the statistics are reviewed against the audited annual accounts and adjustments are made to bring the statistics in line with the cash based account” (HMRC Methodology Note: Annex B, para., 140, p.61).

Not content with confusing the reader (or themsleves?) about cash or accrual accounting, HMRC note that “data is not available for each year” (para., 4, p.5) and then provides a whole Annexe A to explain why they are using the wrong year to cover the gap. We are then informed that the sum of the four nations in the UK also aggregates to a figure that turns out to be less than the UK total revenues because of “non-identification, incomplete data or non-UK activity”, which however is nowhere explained or reconciled. It is just a fact. What we are supposed to make of this is not explained.

When we turn to the detail of HMRC treatment of major sources of tax revenue we enter a world that is completely impenetrable. Corporation Tax may be disaggregated on the basis of geographical location and employment numbers, or the location of registered office. Of course such wildly different bases could produce radically different results, and in many cases registered office may have been established by the business concern for long-lost historical reasons or reasons completely unconnected to the underlying economics of the enterprise. What this does offer is the opportunity to move the results in large aggregations in any direction required, simply by choosing betweeen one of two diametrically different alternatives.

We are not told how this basis of disaggregation is selected for major companies (BP, RBS, Diageo just for example). Diageo is one of the largest whisky distillers, producing very large profits, foreign exchange and balance of payments benefits to the UK Treasury; much of it from whisky. Its Registered Office is in London. The point here is not how Diageo has in fact been treated by GERS but the fact that we have no way of knowing the basis of the selection process case-by-case from the information supplied. If we add all the possible adjustments together we could envisage producing results that could mean just about anything at all.

I began by writing that the methodology was more important than the figures, and without a sound methodology we have precisely nothing. We have nothing. We cannot expect that GERS or HMRC would claim their efforts were in vain, but the weasel-worded explanation offered for this slapdash method of disaggregation tells us something different. Their efforts are in vain.

The real criticism of this failure is not to be found in the pointless politcal debate GERS will spawn among politicians. The real criticism is that Scotland has been allowed to progress throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century without even the adequate collection of economic data to allow for the prudent, wise and progressive government of the country, or an understanding of the problems created by this gross want of knowledge. This is an appalling indictment of the Government of Scotland within the Union. The GERS and HMRC disaggregation methodology would not pass muster in the ‘hard sciences’, but while this may set too demanding a standard, the situation is much worse. The disaggregation method would not pass muster in a business, big or small.

Notice that I do not claim that it matters whether the knowledge provided by the disaggregation method reveals positive or negative information about the prospects for the Scottish economy; such a conclusion misses the point. We can do nothing about remedies until we understand the facts, and we do not possess “the facts”. For generations in Scotland we have not even bothered to gather the facts; and Westminster has been casually, wantonly indifferent to the need. We are therefore in no position to understand the economy of our own country. This is a fundamental failure of administration and government.

We are now attempting to recover from the intellectual and political failure that has extended to Scotland’s great and real cost for over a century. This is a fundamental failure of basic good governance of Scotland that rests, ultimately with Westminster (and the ill-informed, ill-equipped Scots representatives there over many, many decades). This is the matter that should be exercising the minds of politicians, and not whatever the current methodologically unsatisfactory GERS figures purport to prove. They prove nothing, save the demonstrable want of care for Scotland that the inadequacy of the “methodology” amply endorses. The disaggregation of data for the ‘four nations’ that everyone claims to be concerned about should be established at source; by which I mean at the point the data is initially captured. Scotland deserves nothing less: the GERS methodology standard, and the current UK collection of the data is not good enough for Scotland. GERS therefore invites us to debate the wrong issues, for the wrong reasons.

Comments (88)

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  1. Proud Cybernat says:

    Here here!

  2. Alan Weir says:

    The points you make are well taken but I think the focus should not be on how fallible the GERS methodology(ies) are at doing what they attempt to do, let the economists argue of that. We should be trying (against a huge storm of media obfuscation of course, led by the BBC) to enlighten people to what it is, what sort of thing it is a conjectural estimate of. In particular we should try to disabuse as many as possible of the idea that Scotland has a deficit.

    Scotland doesn’t have, can’t have, a public finance deficit (or surplus) because it is not fiscally autonomous. GERS is an estimate of the state of public finances were Scotland to have been fiscally autonomous in the year in question and *given a highly contentious and unjust fiscal settlement* and assuming we made no fiscal decisions different from the UK. For instance it assumes a net transfer to ruK for share of UK debt but no transfer in the other direction to honour e.g. the promises of the union dividend or to compensate for the giant subsidy Scotland has given to the UK over the last 40 years on the basis of UK govt lies about the value of the oil (without which Scotland, on conservative assumptions, would have been about £150 billion on credit just now).

    The assumed fiscal settlement underlying GERs is based on British Nationalist ‘moral’, or at best real politik considerations. E.g. that Scotland has a moral obligation to its share of UK national debt (which I agree we do) but that rUK has no moral obligations to Scotland at all with respect to e.g. the union dividend promises which helped secure that NO vote so that the debt liability is a net liability. There are no legal obligations in either direction. And in the matter of real politik it is very much open to question what settlement, what net liabilities etc. would arise on in independence, e.g. after negotiations on Trident withdrawal.

    The main point of GERs is to convince Scots that we are a bunch of parasitical subsidy junkies, whose only hope of West European standards of living is to stand on the border with a big tammy and say pap a big bung in there to pay for our fags and booze or we’ll go independent. We aren’t doing a great job in bursting this giant Unionist subsidy lie, and accepting the idea that there is a deficit doesn’t help. Nor will quibbling about GERS methodology do much either, it seems to me.

    1. david says:

      what is wrong with you people ??

      the statistics you are moaning about are YOUR OWN GOVERNMENTS STATISTICS

      not even Nicola Sturgeon does not dispute that


      1. Broadbield says:

        Clearly you haven’t even read the article. But I like your self-description at the end.

      2. John S Warren says:

        Happy to help. As already suggested to you, perhaps you should read the article?

        For the avoidance of doubt, I am not an apologist for the Scottish Government. It can speak for itself. I might speculate that the whole point of GERS was to leave Scotland’s government with limited options – for it is all we have. GERS is used universally because there is nothing else available, not because it is “good enough” (it is only Scotland – so it will do).

        This can only be solved at a UK level because the UK captures most of the data and is in sole possession of (access to) many of the critical public revenue facts (big items like VAT, Corporation Tax etc). I do not claim Scotland will be better or worse positioned in terms of ‘quantum’ after the facts are available, but it will be in a better position to understand how both its economy (and even its government (!)) actually function, and what needs to be done.

        I consider this information failure a disgrace.

  3. Aitken Drumm says:

    Why aren’t the Scottish Government and msps being more vocal about this set of fairy tale figures and guestimates. Listened to Alyn Smith today on the EBC responding to this garbage as if it was true and accurate instead of telling them where to stick it. Why the acceptance of this pish.

  4. e.j. churchill says:

    There were no words/phrases from the report that were one bit unique, unusual nor surprising from any interim financial analysis and report, either in the body (as these were) or in footnote.

    You seem to be strongly implying bias and purposeful bias and colluded bias of all the worker-bees, accountants, auditors, editors and supercargo from both sides of the wall all tilted and funneled to Scotland’s present and future detriment.

    Nonsense. ’tis clear YOU have never seen a set of cooked books.

    Generally speaking, from a fiscal/financial perspective:
    – imprecise neither means nor implies ‘inaccurate.’
    – as long as it is noted, date-arithmetic is OK, and necessary for calculations.
    – in a large document, inaccuracies pretty-well zero.
    – as long as base-assumptions & methodologies don’t vary y-o-y, there is no cooking.

    You have, of course, fed the Narcissism of Small Differences.



    1. John S Warren says:

      1. You have no grounds whatsoever for your claim about what I have seen or not seen. Do you make this claim as a way of demonstrating your general approach to evidence?
      2. The “imprecisions” are not quantified so the quantum is unknown. Errors/inaccuracies are acknowledged as a risk factor in the Methodology Note. What we have is what they term a “simplification”. It is in fact a gross simplification.
      3. “Necessary for calculations” does not imply that the calculations are necessary. Some of them are only necessary to cover for a complete lack of the actual, real data that is not accessible. They may be entirely spurious.
      4, The statistical concept you identify as “pretty well”: is this concept your idea of statistical significance? “Zero”? Prove it.
      5. “base-assumptions & methodologies don’t vary y-o-y”. The Methodology Note does not claim this consistency, or that the methodologies do not change; indeed the opposite is implied.

      It is quite clear that the “worker-bees” were tasked to produce a body of facts about Scotland that does not – as a matter of plain fact – exist. The Methodology Note is at pains to make this clear. It is a gross embarrassment that the Scottish data is not available, but that goes to the low importance attributed to understanding, in depth, the Scottish economy (a long established indifference which Westminster is now eager to obscure).

      The worker-bees are more diligent and rigorous than you. The data is not captured in a form that disaggregates Scotland. It is also clear that neither the resources nor the time has been applied or was available to capture the data necessary to present the information (it would probably take years, and legislation to do this). That is a plain fact of which the Methodology Note itself is a frank acknowledgement.

      The worker-bees have then attempted to present a body of information to fulfil the task they were set, making the best of a very, very bad proposition. It is not their fault this is a mess. Your inability to understand that it is a “bad job”, or the nature of the impossible task set is remarkable. My criticism is of those who decided to produce GERS in its present form, not the worker-bees.

    2. Jack Collatin says:

      e.j. Churchill? Citybankster? My arse. Get on with your homework; adults speaking here.

    3. Alex P says:

      You seem to deliberately miss the point. If unlikely as it seems these guesstimated GERS figures approximate the truth, then whose fault is that truth? Decades of mismanagement of the Scottish economy, by an indifferent Westminster, or a few years attempts by a Scottish government, with its hands tied behind its back. Who could not want change?

  5. Steven Milne says:

    “GERS is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances.”

    Quote from the White Paper on Independence written by SNP in 2014.

    1. John S Warren says:

      On precisely what basis do you found the claim that I was “taking sides” in what I consider to be an ill-considered debate (a point I thought I made clear)?

      1. Haideng says:

        On the basis that you automatically assume Scotland’s economic position to be better than stated in GERS. But logically, if GERS prove nothing, then Scotland could equally be in a much worse position regarding GERS. You don’t make this rational observation yet maintain Scotland is and has been held back by being in the union. This maybe so (in reality), but you have no basis either on which to maintain such an assertion if there are no accurate figures/ analysis.

        1. John S Warren says:

          For the avoidance of doubt I do not “automatically assume Scotland’s economic position to be better than stated in GERS”. I do not claim that Scotland’s position is better anywhere in the article, or the comments: and I made this abundantly clear. It has nothing to do with the point I made, and you have no grounds for the statement: none. Perhaps I should draw the conclusion that you are confused, as your follow-up comment tentatively acknowledges. In which case, may I suggest that you take some time to unravel the confusion.

          I am happy to debate the arguments that I actually make, but it is becoming tedious to respond to arguments I have not made, but are gratuitously controversial in tone, beside the point and seem intended only to generate more heat than light.

      2. Haideng says:

        You argument is entirely tautological and therefore meaningless. Even if you are right.

      3. Haideng says:

        Hang on am I getting confused? Are you simply saying there is no accurate data at all due to flaws in the methodolgy? And therefore we have no way of knowing if the figures are true or false? If so how do you know the methodolgy is therefore flawed? On what basis can you deconstruct the methodolgy if you have no way of accurately knowing if the methodology arrives at proper forecasts? If it proves nothing it could equally arrive at accurate results thus legitamising the methodology?

        1. John S Warren says:

          “…. how do you know the methodolgy is therefore flawed? On what basis can you deconstruct the methodolgy if you have no way of accurately knowing if the methodology arrives at proper forecasts?”.

          This is very simple. If the methodology is designed to produce results that it is impossible to know whether they are flawed (or the effects are hidden from view), then it follows that the methodology is flawed. Think of method in science; such an outcome in riorous science would lead to the immediate abandonment of the method. QED.

      4. Haideng says:

        Also it seems that GERS are cross referenced with many other independent private and public stats (the methodology is checked for consistency using external independently collated data) orgs including Eurostat and the IMF. Are they all wrong also?

        1. John S Warren says:

          The data is not accurate. The problem is the data for Scotland is not collected separately for many of the (large) public revenues. The GERS method would not be acceptable or accepted for the UK, but it is good enough for Scotland. This means very indirect, or speculative or even inaccurate means are used to derive the figures to give plausible looking estimates for Scotland. Yet we debate the issues as if the data is accurate and the methodology is sound. The GERS and HMRC methodology (and many well placed professionals) know very well that the techniques being used are, in many cases, unsatisfactory. We do not know whether it is accurate, or how accurate. This is no way to run a modern country.

        2. Kenny says:

          I read the article and what I read was “there is simply no way of knowing if any of it is true, so any remedy that might be applied to any purported problem cannot be a properly informed solution. Any accuracies in the data are coincidental. At best they’re a decent approximation of the Scottish economy but almost by definition they aren’t accurate and never can be accurate because we just don’t pay enough attention to the detail of the Scottish economy to know.”

          The writer doesn’t seem to be explicitly taking “sides” in the debate (although why it should be an issue to “take sides” over is beyond me anyway.) They’re simply saying that it’s a shoddy state of affairs when neither the UK nor Scottish government has access to reliable, accurate information about the state of the Scottish economy. Is that REALLY all that controversial a suggestion? To me, it’s the most intelligent thing anyone has said about GERS in the last week or so.

  6. Crubag says:

    Up until an independent Scotland, with its own borders, Companies House, tax inspectors etc. there is inevitably going to be debate about how expenditure and income are being allocated.

    But the differences aren’t in the order of £15 billion. It’s clear we are currently running a deficit.

    Does that matter? It depends when the referendum is called, which I don’t see happening for ten years or more. Time enough to address the gap.

    Though if the SNP were serious about regaining EU membership, they could commission an independent statistical office – one of the requirements for entry is to have one…

    1. Jack Collatin says:

      The Nexus of evil Britnat Trolls.

      ‘GERS therefore invites us to debate the wrong issues, for the wrong reasons.’
      It is a Unionist fiction.

      I urge Taylor to read this excellent piece before he appears on BBC News Where We Are again.
      Wee Wullie will be touting ‘$15 billion deficit around the Holyrood Chambers all through the autumn, yet, I venture, lacks the intellectual capacity to absorb the detail in this incisive and damning article.
      Chapeau, M Warren.

  7. Richard anderson says:

    Presumably some of the guesses about Scottish economic performance will convert to hard facts with the roll out of Scottish income tax. There are still too many retained powers at Westminster to allow data to harden up.
    On the wider issue of Scotlands finances, I wonder if the Scottish government has a target for the deficit? Given its lack of powers over key aspects of the economy, how much ability does it gave to genuinely effect change. I’m reminded of the conflict between Osborne and Swinney over stamp duty where the uk rules.

    1. Crubag says:

      There aren’t really that many large uncertainties – sales tax and corporation tax, maybe.

      But as you say, we will soon know in detail who earns what and what tax they pay.

      House sale tax is even simpler, houses being less mobile. We can now levy that tax in Scotland but only on Scottish houses, so may miss out on a rise in value in rUK houses. But if that happens, the tax can be raised to compensate or accept a lower tax take by comparison.

  8. Peter Kershaw says:

    Although you concentrate on the revenue stream here, the spending stream (the other component of the deficit) is also difficult to disaggregate. In truth, everything in the GERS figures rests on “estimates”, and estimates are always subject to bias, whether conscious or unconscious. As soon as you start estimating, accuracy flies out of the window!

  9. Alex Beveridge says:

    “Too wee, too poor, too stupid”. The propaganda has never, and will never change. It’s not this report, or indeed any other publication that has Westminster’s fingerprints all over it, it’s the M.S.Ms promotion of any S.N.P “Baad” story. Accompanied naturally by the bleatings from the usual unionist suspects, desperate to denigrate Scotland, and given either airtime, or print space, to voice their views, which, not surprisingly, coincide with the Westminster establishment’s opinion of our country, and its people.
    This has been going on for over three hundred years, and as the date of the next Scottish Referendum approaches, the intensity will only increase. So any particular story in itself is unimportant, its the media’s interpretation of it that counts, and we are all too aware of what that means.
    While I believe we will eventually become an independent country, its going to be a hard slog, and its not the unionist parties who are our greatest enemy, its the M.S.M, who are merely an extension of a Westminster establishment, determined to retain control over a subjugated people.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Swinney got a LOT of mileage out of that (stolen) turn of phrase: the invention of a ‘new-and-even-MORE-devious&EEVIL-enemy,’ polishing the fallacy of ‘confront your fears and they shrink’ and, of course, a beautiful, classic straw man constructed 100% of match-lite.

      Alex, I am NOT saying the media do not have a delightful (and easy to write) time of encoding tiny, impoverished and dumb as a pet rock into their stories, buuuuttttt … ‘Too wee, puir and stupid.’ is existential: coded into Scotland’s DNA and EVERY ruler since at least the Davids had/has to confront those facts-on-the-ground, certainly including NS.

      Everybody who has ever ruled Scotland has plotted to, somehow, keep graduates at home. Every year since there have been universities, matriculants come to the high-road and turn south. Well-educated people have always been Scotland’s most valuable export.

      ’tis sad


  10. Haideng says:

    I have a question. If GERS is flawed nonsense, why did the SNP base it’s entire independence campaign on it in 2013/14? See the ‘white paper’. Were they deliberately trying to deceive the public? And does this also mean that international commentators like Stiglitz or Krugman are equally stupid to use GERS as the basis for their analysis?

    1. Person_XYZ says:

      I too find it wearying that people can happily use a set of statistics when they happen to suit, but then pretend that they are nonsense when they no longer suit. Would those now decrying GERS at least admit that the economic statistics presented in the White Paper were fundamentally flawed and that it was therefore a completely false prospectus? In addition, what should the Scottish Government do to bring GERS up to scratch?

      It is taken as given that the numbers that feed into GERS are imperfect, as would be the case in any set of national statistics. But is it the authors contention that our national statistics are totally worthless?

      1. Kenny says:

        This is a really weird argument. Stating that GERS has flaws is not in any way at odds with accepting that it’s the best information available and to proceed on that basis. Would it have somehow made more sense to say “we have absolutely no idea about Scotland’s finances so we’re literally just pulling numbers out of nowhere”? Also, given that the statistics are calculated by a UK Government body (and therefore probably intrinsically unionist in its assumptions), it’s fairly reasonable to assume that when it showed Scotland outperforming rUK for the thirty years prior to referendum that there’s every chance that Scotland really did do very well in those years. The methodology has consistently been refined and changed (presumably for the better) at various points over the 30-odd years we’ve had GERS, but it’s a well known fact that at the outset it was hoped that GERS would be a tool to help fight off the Scottish national movement (and this was before there was an ONS, so the calculations were made by a politically-guided civil service.)

  11. Haideng says:

    I just want accurate facts devoid of bias from any side.

    1. manandboy says:

      Accurate facts devoid of bias from a Government in Westminster which is dedicated to secrecy and public deception? Lying is habit forming and in time renders any government or individual incapable of telling the truth. In its dealings and statements re Scotland, Westminster has long since become totally incapable of telling the truth. Hence Scotland’s primary dysfunction is not poverty, size or stupidity, but gullibility in the face of an endless stream of unionist politicians lying through their teeth.

      1. Haideng says:

        Fair enough, that may be so, but if the figures are bogus then that also means the SNP and the entire Indyref Yes campaign were lying also. Who can we trust?

  12. Rose Burn says:

    When looking at a complex issue, such as national accounts or government finances, it is always useful to do a basic sense check. Does Scotland have a higher level of public spending per person than the rest of the U.K.? Clearly yes; Holyrood figures would not disagree with £1200 per person. Does Scotland raise more tax revenue per person (excluding oil and gas revenues) than the rest of the U.K.? Unlikely – as John Swinney has pointed out on many occasions, Scotland is about the UK average, second only to London, in terms of incomes. Is it the case that tax revenues per person are £400 a person less than the RUK average? It might be less, it might even be the same amount, but it’s unlikely to be above the RUK average – tax revenues largely depend on company HQ and the number of higher rate taxpayers, and Scotland has relatively few of either. Lastly, have oil and gas tax revenues fallen to zero in the past two years? Clearly yes – hence the need to provide fiscal support for North Sea companies. Put it all together, whether Scotland’s share of the total UK borrowing requirement is precisely £15 billion both last year and this year is a matter of debate, but the actual figure cannot be that far away. A sense check tells us that. Going forwards, we need to close the funding gap. How? By attracting more company HQ to Scotland and developing more home grown businesses (better skills base rather than tax rates as a driver?) and think how we create many more higher paid jobs, and decide how we are going to become more efficient with our public spending plans. We have the levers already.

    1. Haideng says:

      Good points. Thank you. The only significant lever, I can see, for Scotland, that it doesn’t already have – in terms of tax revenue and increasing productivity – is corporation tax. So there is a debate there, an independent Scotland could significantly under cut the rUK thus attracting investment as Ireland does. But do we really want to turn Scotland into a tax haven for big business and what then of the loss to public spending – services would have no option but to be seriously cut?

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Excellent Point, Rose. Passing the ‘smell test.’ Is essential before you read the 1st footnote, and that threshold is well and truely met.

        Haideng: ‘We need more ‘levers’ is always amusing. ‘Lever’ is clearly a poll-tested, focus-grouped benevolent synonym for ‘screwing some cohesive minority group’ and *ControlCorpTax* is always a PUBLIC winner, and every country plays games with the HEADLINE rate – ‘making those eeevvilll corporations pay *THEIR FAIR SHARE* is always a big seller.

        What matters is *EFFECTIVE* rate, and my fave example is Thomsen: the French headline is an eye-watering 35%, Thomsen (and, indeed the whole sector) pays about 7%, net-net.


        1. Kenny says:

          It’s worth pointing out that the £15bn “deficit” is illusory in a couple of ways. First of all, while there are plenty of civil servants working in Scotland, the vast bulk are in tax offices (was about 10,000 but falling by 3000 with the loss of the centre in Cumbernauld that BT promised us a No vote would protect) which iScotland would still need and about 9000 working for the DWP (mostly in Jobcentres but also some administrating pensions.) It seems likely we’d still need most of those. The remainder include civilian MOD staff at the various bases and a fair few at DFID in East Kilbride. Again, we’d still need most of those. However, we pay a population share of all the other departments that are predominantly based in London. If you take just the Home Office and Foreign Office and assume that Scotland would create departments of round about 10% the size of the UK’s departments (thus costing more or less the same as what we currently pay), that’s just under a billion pounds added to the Scottish economy and more than 20,000 jobs. Think about the savings on social security spending, the increased income tax receipts, the fiscal multipliers of all that money being circulated in the Scottish economy with VAT being skimmed off at almost every turn. If you add up all the departments as well as things like the £100m of BBC licence fee money raised here but not spent here, it totals perhaps £3bn added into the Scottish economy (before considering fiscal multipliers) and with at least half of that being gathered in tax, it knocks a billion or two off the cash “deficit.”

          The knock-on effects of some of that spending could be enormous. Take football, for example. BBC One currently spends almost £100m per year on English football, while BBC Scotland’s total sport budget (including radio AND TV) is just £4m. Imagine if just a few million more each year were channeled to Scottish football via an SBC supporting its domestic league the way the BBC supports the English game. We’ve just seen Celtic bring £30m from Europe to Scotland by qualifying for the Champions League. It’s not that long since Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen all made the groups stages of European competition. Imagine if that could be repeated semi-regularly as our clubs get the amount of money a national league ought to be able to expect from its national broadcaster. Similarly, imagine if instead of contributing to a UK National Theatre as well as our own Scottish National Theatre, we were able to put ALL that money into our own cultural enterprises. Could Edinburgh extend its exceptional global reputation for August through the rest of the year or a little further afield around the country? Could this, combined with a well-funded SBC get our remarkable over-achievement in Hollywood to stimulate a Scottish film industry into life?

          (It would be interesting to see London’s overall performance if the contributions from the rest of the UK were taken out. It would probably still look rich, but it wouldn’t be anything like as much richer than the rest as it looks now.)

          There’s also the strong likelihood that any iScotland will have zero debt liabilities on day one and very probably no state pension liabilities either. This is not just a question of justice or even of precedent (as in the case of Ireland), but simply the stated positions of the UK Government.

  13. Haideng says:

    ‘However the output from this doubtful methodology is claimed by the British Government with extravagant insistence to be meaningful, and to throw light on Scotland’s economy.’

    But it isn’t just the British government, it’s the Scottish government also, the European Commission, the IMF, the World Bank, numerous independent private financial organisations (not that they should be trusted especially), many economists, academics – including independently commissioned reviews at the University of Glasgow and St Andrews. Surely they can’t all be using flawed stats? Or maybe they are? I have no idea.

    1. John S Warren says:

      I am not an apologist for the Scottish Government. If you read my article you will see that I am in fact challenging the use of GERS by both sides. GERS is unsatisfactory: the Emperor has no clothes.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Of course you were and are an apologist for SG/SNP … ‘if there is ANYTHING less that perfect (and favourable) it is both valueless and anti-independence.’

        I’ll go back to my 1st substantive statement: you have no idea what a set of cooked books looks like.

        Does it matter that an ‘about £2′ scarf at Debenhams is really £1.98? If you are a GERS-denier, it matters immensely. ANY Debenham’s data, about any subject is not only incorrect, it probably is a lie cut from whole cloth and if you shop there, you’re supporting NO.’

        Again, it is well-known and universally accepted the SNP is not only fact-averse, they are fact-hostile.


        1. Broadbield says:

          You make numerous assertions but offer no evidence. Your comments are pointless unless you can back it up. Alternatively, since Mr Warren has provided chapter and verse you could critique his critique, but that might take some intellectual effort beyond mere polemic.

  14. Haideng says:

    And what of the Fiscal Commission Working Group? Those independent economists who set out the case for independence prior to the referendum? And the OECD? They used GERS, ONS figures also?

  15. James Mills says:

    So , long story short , they took the number they first thought of , divided it by the square root of the IQ of Boris Johnson’s cat , added the number of Lords left in the bar at midnight , and gave it two hours at gas mark 5 . Result – we are broke ! Simples !

  16. Crubag says:

    The SNP have just accepted the new GERS figured, arguing that the deficit shows the UK isn’t working, and that it isn’t a barrier to EU membership.

    So, no contest.

    The next referendum is probably 2 elections away, so time to rebuild the public finances.

    Membership of the euro does require a lower deficit figure at 3%, but I doubt that either the euro or EU will exist in their current form by then.

  17. e.j. churchill says:

    As distasteful as this comment is to make, the GERS deniers have a lot in common with the Holocaust deniers.

    The fact that no birth record exists for ‘Big-Nose-George-the-Gipsy’, does NOT mean that Birkenau was complete & total fiction.

    GERS – for all of it’s known and assumed vugs, inaccuracies and flaws – is UNIVERSALLY accepted as ‘CLOSE ENOUGH’ (a term of art, BTW) for *everybody* who depends on the data.


    While it is well-known that, ‘SNP don’t do facts.’ constantly re-proving this at every opportunity is not helpful to bringing more ‘Soft NO’ onside.


    1. John S Warren says:

      GERS “known and assumed vugs, inaccuracies and flaws” is precisely what you denied in your first comment. Inaccuracy became (mere) “imprecision” (not exactly a rigorous or happy choice of term, if it means anything at all). Indeed the inaccuracies were “pretty well zero”. They aren’t, and I doubt if the ‘worker-bees’ would make the extravagant claim you gratuitously choose to make for their work.

      “Universally accepted as close enough” doesn’t cut it. My issue is with the fact that there is no attempt being made to identify the actual/real Scottish data. This would not be accepted as “close enough” in the UK and it shouldn’t be for Scotland. In economics bad forecasting and poor data has become routine. It is universally accepted as close enough that virtually everybody in mainstream economics, Central Banks, Treasuries, Regulators failed to see the imminent 2007-8 Financial Crash, even when it was on top of them. The accountants were not noticably better.

      Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, two distinguished economists who are well placed to understand GERS wrote a paper on GERS (Fraser of Allander Institute Quarterly Economic Commentary, vol 24, no.1 (1998)) in which I shall merely repeat the first line of their Summary: “The [GERS] results are inherently inaccurate and subject to potential bias”.

      Merryn Somerset Webb (a critic of the SNP) writing yesterday in Money Week had to acknowledge the following:

      “I knocked off a quick blog a few years ago in which I pointed out that there is an awful lot of guesstimating in the revenue figures in the numbers (which come in about £400 lower per head than in the UK as whole): it is all but impossible to know what corporation tax receipts, for example, and other tax-takes such as those from income tax would depend heavily on what arbitrage there might be between the rest of the UK and Scotland post-independence (low income tax rates would bring high-earners in and visa versa).”

      Even the UK Statistics Authority (Assessment Report 274, February 2014) acknowledged that, for non-oil revenues “the shares of other tax revenues used in GERS differ from those used in HMRC’s country analysis. This could be confusing to users.”

      To make it clear I have no axe to grind regarding the SNP. They can be wrong, and they must speak for themselves.

      The point about GERS is – it is all we have. It is all the Scottish Government has, and I consider this a disgrace. This can only be solved at a UK level. GERS is used “universally” because there is nothing else available, not because it is “good enough”.

      Finally, your opening remark is indeed distasteful, and offensive. It is quite wrong and it it is disgraceful that you resort to such demeaning tactics.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree, I suppose.

        Worldwide, inductry-wade, large and miniscule, people make consequential decisions using imperfect & incomplete data of much lower quality and accuracy than GERS.

        If you need an example of the perfect is the enemy of good, you spent +1,000 words proving it.

        Kindest personal regards


        1. John S Warren says:

          “Kindest personal regards” and “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” just doesn’t cut it, after the deeply offensive ‘Holocaust deniers’ remark; especially as you have the bare-faced cheek (way beyond irony) to refer to my comments as “the enemy of the good”. You are relying on weasel-words.

          You are right about one thing: there is nothing more to say. I am content to allow my article (which I begin to doubt that you actually read, still less that you read the GERS and HMRC Methodological Papers) and my rebuttals speak for me, and allow your personal, offensive, demeaning, vain, illogical, obtuse and sometimes incoherent rambles speak for you. The readers can judge for themselves.

    2. Maria F says:

      “As distasteful as this comment is to make, the GERS deniers have a lot in common with the Holocaust deniers”

      Absolutely. Distasteful, inappropriate and completely off-putting, if I may add.

      If there is something that truly annihilates my interest in reading or listening to the comments of somebody within a political setting is the word holocaust or antisemite. When those words are used in such a setting, you know that whoever is resourcing to them are already scrapping the bottom of an empty barrel.

      The movement for Scottish Independence is clean and aims for the good of Scotland and the Scottish people, which is something Westminster has not done for centuries. So please do not throw that degrading, dirty and unintelligent type of psychological blackmail crap to the Scottish independence cause.

      Thank you.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Maria, I am truly sorry I hurt your feelings, and I take your point abt what a conversation stopper that is, however and that said, the (distatestful) analogy is not one bit inaccurate IF you have read some of the more simplistic Holocaust dreck alongside ‘cybernats’ contempt, treatment of facts and rejecting a whole base of data on the basis of David Torrance quoting it … and for that matter, I’ll include ‘scaremongering’ and ‘talking scotland down.’

        If you are unfamiliar with other forms of fact denial, think of thrusting garlic into the face of about any SNP minister. Discussing higher ed with Angela Constance comes to mind, or NS’s shrill accusations of ‘Scaremongering’ to parents who opposed the ‘children and family secret control bill.’

        GERS, for any/all of it’s flaws a/o assumptions, is as competent as, and better than many ‘interim working documents’ used by governments world-wide for planning and law-making support.

        If you have to be the Red Queen, here, ‘s’ok.

        /s/ Alice

        1. James Mills says:

          You have hit rock bottom . Time to stop digging !

        2. Maria F says:

          “Maria, I am truly sorry I hurt your feelings, and I take your point abt what a conversation stopper that is”

          I accept your apology.

          As per the rest of your comment, I am sorry but I couldn’t be bothered in reading it as I can see from peripheral view that you insist in using inappropriately the magic word.

          I stand by my above comments: resourcing to dirty psychological blackmail like that is a clear indication that you have run out completely of intelligent arguments to defend you position and you are in fact just seeking attention by scrapping the dirty bottom of an empty barrel.

          You may think that you are having some success deflecting the main issue of the conversation, which is the fascinating point highlighted by Mr Warren that GERS is a castle designed by unionists to frighten the Scottish public, but built on air foundations and hence completely useless to use as a reference or even withstand any form of criticism. Well you are not. As a matter of fact, the more you attempt to defend it with your offensive remarks the more useless and laughable GERS looks.

    3. Douglas says:

      You should be ashamed of yourself for comparing GERS figures to the Holocaust, an utterly disgraceful comment, e.j Churchill.

      You are a disgrace to the respectable people on the Unionist side of the debate.

      What a nasty, frivolous and thoroughly crass person you paint yourself to be…

      1. Alex Beveridge says:

        Well said, Douglas.

      2. e.j. churchill says:

        Hi Douglas, if you are going to damn me, let me help you with what I said, not your transliteration.

        – GERS-*Deniers*
        – Holocaust-*Deniers*
        – SNP-*FACT-adversity*

        Have a lot of similarities, but it would be very helpful if you (or anybody offended by Holocaust) to be somewhat familiar with their small standards of denial. Like SNP or GERS, a damning ad hominem is sufficient to reject anything said as, minimum, wrong, and normally, a high-magnitude lie.

        Garlic shoved in a Vampire’s mug would have worked also, and would have been less offensive.

        On Scotsman and H-S, I am more known as cruelly neutral. I am a non-dom and can neither vote nor contribute money. Other than financial interests, I care not a whit about Scotland. I do, however, enjoy politics much more than most.

        I DO apologise for any offence I caused you. Usually when I offend, it is purposeful and has a point.


  18. Broadbield says:

    I’ve seen the light!! Thanks, City Bankster and others. I now love GERS, even though I know it was set up by Ian Laing as a means of “undermining” the other parties; even though I know it contains expenditure in other parts of the UK apportioned to Scotland; even though we are paying for things like Trident and other vanity projects; even though it tells us nothing about what an independent Scotland would be like; even though messrs Warren, Cuthbert, Dalzell et al have comprehensively deconstructed its validity and reliability which in most scientific circles would be fatal. So, I look forward to the methodology being used by corporations, the local plumber, the banks – oh, wait, I think the banks already use it and managed to arrange a transfer of billions onto their balance sheets – no, I really do love Big Beggar and rejoice at the Herald’s headline “UK subsidy to Scotland soars”, showing how far we have come in 300 years. No wonder they won’t let us go.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      I don’t think it is necessary to love something that is useful and fit for purpose – even it is freely and universally acknowledged it is incorrect in detail.

      I would imagine by the time yr 2015 is ‘closed’ maybe by 2023 or so there will be at least a few revisions as more data becomes available.

      I have no idea who Ian Lang is, but of course it is a political document that satisfies the interim reporting & planning needs of Scotland. It’s not necessary to make it more (or less) than it is.

      Because it is not perfect does not mean it is wrong.


    2. Haideng says:

      The point being made is that although Warren and other hard line indy people have voiced an opinion on GERS to the effect that the figures are based on flawed detailed methodology, which is acknowledged by all who use them (including the Scottish and UK governments), the general position reached by the methodology is similarly widely accepted. GERS nor any stats are supposed to be a definitive base, but a generalised starting point that can and are cross referenced with other statistics. So even if all of Warren’s points are accepted and the deficit is not quite 14 billion or 9 – 10 % then it is still will will close, in the same area as the structural issues that unpin this figure, rather than the nuanced details are starkly apparent, and backed up by independent analysis. I’m struggling to see what motive the EU has for manipulating regional stats – they also put Scotland’s deficit in the 9% zone? There is no vested interest when allocating structural adjustment funds, quite the opposite as they have to (until Brexit) increase funding? Ditto the IMF? what’s in it for Christine Legard to use faulty stats? Doesn’t make any sense and most people realise it and aren’t stupid. And these are the boring middle of the road people who will decide any future referendum. Denial of economic reality, just like with the currency in the indy ref is fatal to the campaign.

      1. John S Warren says:

        For the avoidance of doubt, although what I write is often critical of Westminster, the Westminster Cartel and the British state none of this entails “hard line indy”. I am not “hard line indy” and I have rarely written anything that presents a case for drawing such a conclusion. I believe that the Scottish people in 2014 broadly wanted a two-question referendum and would have settled for a full Federalist or DevoMax solution. It was unfortunate, and yet another Westminster blunder, that these options were not acted on. At the same time if the Scottish people wish independence, then so be it: I can see both the reasons and the opportunity it presents.

        I would suggest that you read the GERS and HMRC Methodology Notes carefully (and the not so rare professional critics of the GERS data), for at least the principals responsible for GERS are more aware of the limitations of the data than their public apologists here. The Scottish Public Revenue and Tax data should not be subject to indirect, speculative disaggregation from the UK to establish a theoretical quantum, but should be collected separately for Scotland; at the point of intial data capture. This is really very important for the good governance of Scotland and should not be difficult to understand, even if it is currently difficult to execute (or politically inconvenient). We should be able to take such matters for granted. There is no merit whatsoever in claiming that the Byzantine and at times inconsistent methodologies currently at play, in order to fix an approximation of the quantum, will somehow do – because its Scotland.

  19. Philip Maughan says:

    I think the most important point made in the article is that without accurate accounts, no Government, either Scottish or UK is able to make sound strategic decisions concerning the future development of the Scottish economy. What is the Scottish Government doing to rectify this, are they pressing Westminster for accurate data collection?

    1. John S Warren says:

      Thank you for focusing on what I actually wrote, and grasping the core of my argument.

    2. Alf Baird says:

      “are they pressing Westminster for accurate data collection?”

      You are joking, aren’t you?

      Scotland needs to start afresh and there are numerous innovative ways to raise revenue from the offshore tax avoiders and transfer pricers fleecing Scotland (e.g. whisky, oil firms, privatised ports and airports and energy firms, landowning Dukes, private rented property owners etc,) the best of which is to abolish these registry options entirely. As for new taxes, the favourite might be Annual Ground Rent which seems more than capable of raising in excess of 15bn GB pounds/yr.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        Alf, The question was accurate data collection, not how to make Scotland into an economic desert, ☺but you hit most of the high points on that topic.


        1. Alf Baird says:

          Scotland has arguably been an economic desert for as long as any of us have been around, with resources/rents intercepted, exploited and squandered by a unionist elite. Every desert has its ‘Sheiks’.

          1. e.j. churchill says:

            Granted. But for even longer than our puny generations.

            Sadly, Swinney got a lot of straw man mileage plagiarizing “Too wee, puir and stupid.”

            The bon mot is existential reality as well as a snappy soundbite. Since at least the Davids, every ruler, without fail, is faced with those three intertwined, near-impossible difficulties. So far – including the current regime – no ruler has found the key to the lock.

            oh, well



  20. McDuff says:

    For me its simple, If Scotland is being subsidised by £1,600 per head of population at a total cost of £8 billion a year why on earth did Westminster do everything short of military action to keep us part of England.
    I am no economist but that tells me that the books are cooked and that like the BBC we are the ones who are doing the subsidising.

    1. Kenny Smith says:

      Totally agree with what you posted. I am one that at the start of 2014 who would have taken a proper federal, modern union over full Indy, partly due to get rid of the pocket money parliament tag and to be able to do things that are suited to each nation of the UK but after about 6 months I switched to yes and there is no turning back, in fact I’m even more determined than ever that we should be a self governing nation again. Iv asked the same question ” why fight so hard and dirty to keep us in it” if we are such a drain? No prizes for guessing that Iv never had a real response probably like most people on here. I didn’t hate Britain as such although I’d always say I’m Scottish. I certainly don’t hate English people, especially the normal Joe trying like the rest of us to get by but I don’t mind admitting that I hate the Tories and Westminster. GERS is nonsense beyond belief and yet there are still people clinging to it as though its gospel. I do think the SNP could be a little more aggressive in their argument against these data sets but I guess they don’t want to be painted to radical which I understand but you can’t go softly softly all the time. Indy ref 2 is in the post at least it will be a bit more of an even square go this time.

  21. david says:

    what drivel

    not even the scottish government challenge the veracity of the gers statistics

    1. McDuff says:

      What would be the point. All the Unionist parties would deride the SNP if they dared challenge these fantasy figures ably assisted be the entire MSM.
      The question is why did Westminster throw everything into an almost hysterical campaign to Keep Scotland in the Union when we cost so much in subsidy. Tell me.

    2. e.j. churchill says:

      You are Naifs, both of you.

      The defects of GERS are WELL-KNOWN by both sides, but still useful and ‘best available data.’

      Think of it as the old snooker table at your local, where you know every quirk, bend. dimple … and no traveling salesman from Berwick who has a custom 2pc cue can do anything but pay the line.


  22. Ted says:

    Pretty much the same techniques used to create complex financial instruments used by bankers to crash the world economy in 2008. Again, the Emperor has no clothes!.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Hi Ted. I’m one of those eevil bankers and I resemble those remarks.

      If you want to know the trvth of how 2008 happened (and most don’t), in late winter, 1992, Bill Clinton, Fresh President, USA and Barney Frank D, 5 MA had a long planned (‘when we take the White House and Congreƒƒ again’) meeting and we can get some stuff done and ignore those nasty Republicans.

      They decided that every American should be able to own their own house, creditworthy or not. Regulations were changed and laws passed and almost overnight appeared ‘Liar’s Loans.’

      Enter EEVIL BANKERS (::waving::). Governments pay newbie lawyers from 4th rate law schools £30.000 to write regulations. We (eevil bankers) pay £400/hour lawyers to find exploitable cracks & holes in the regs. THEN we pay £1000/hour lobbyists to get OUR work product made into law and regulations.

      ATP came ‘Securitised Mortgages’ where 10,000 mortages were pooled and sliced up into tranches (think pallet of pizza dough and big cans of tomato paste), rated by Moodys, Fitch and S&P (somehow) baked by Wall Street i-banks and sold in slices from every hand cart and bank teller.

      Snotty European Banks would drink lukewarm dog-vomit rather than buy Americain financial products, yes? Yes? well, errrr …. errrrr

      FF to when the music stopped, when Lehman Bros lost their line and could not redeem their overnight paper…


      The moral of the story is that bankers can only be sooo eevil and stoopid without the active, affirmative participation of Presidents and Prime Ministers. (see: G.Brown & RBS)



  23. Broadbield says:

    There are a couple of posters on here (and popping up elsewhere on Bella) demonstrating the little known obscurantist phenomena that even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary they maintain their insupportable position. I prefer Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

    Mr Warren has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, using evidence from the GERS rubric, that the methodology is not valid and the results are unreliable. Therefore the conclusion follows that we do not know the fiscal position of Scotland because we do not have the facts. (and I would personally add, they therefore tell us nothing about an Independent Scotland) End of.

    There is no argument that “they are close enough”, “about as good as we can get” or any of the other preposterous, weasel phrases. If you want to dispute that then you have to demonstrate that the methodology is valid. Nobody has done that. The defenders of GERS have merely asserted their intellectual incompetence.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Have you any thoughts or suggestions how GERS should (not) be used?


      1. Broadbield says:

        Warren’s final 2 paras sum it up: we need good data in order to come to any conclusions and make sound decisions. The UK Govt owes it to all constituent parts of the UK to provide valid, reliable data without political partisanship. So, back to the drawing board.

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          soo … ignore & play crazy & assume & point & argue until we have a new framework fully acceptable to both parties?

          And how do you suggest managing HMRC/Treasury policy and law NOT to break out income in country detail?

          Warren said (paraphrasing) it’s not perfect outline, therefore it is unusable and is probably hostile and anti-scotland, “faugh!”

          totally useless, snpbad, right?



          1. John S Warren says:

            “Warren said (paraphrasing) it’s not perfect outline, therefore it is unusable and is probably hostile and anti-scotland”.

            While I am disinclined to undertake the unpleasant, toxic task of turning over the stone to examine your ill-thought, badly written and grotesque parodies of fair comment (to mention only your triumphs of bad judgement); I am not prepared to let you wantonly misrepresent my words.

            I said nothing about ‘hostility’ or ‘anti-Scotland’. I referred to “want of care” and “indifference”. Stop making up what I write.

          2. e.j. churchill says:

            JSW: “I said nothing about ‘hostility’ or ‘anti-Scotland’. I referred to “want of care” and “indifference”. Stop making up what I write.”

            Free comment certainly includes interpretation, as you did of GERS’ bones, albeit interlinearly.

            If you said (somewhere), ‘for all it’s well-known, fully acknowledged flaws, GERS remains a useful, valuable document.’ I and most others here missed it.

            or, ‘substitute THIS document instead.’

            No. We saw a fairly normal solution-free ‘poor-SNP’ open-ended criticism and carping of ‘the other.’

            – you: it’s imprecise, ergo, inaccurate.
            – me: so?
            – you: …

            Kindest personal regards and thank you for your effort.



          3. John S Warren says:

            ‘substitute THIS document instead.’

            If you bothered to read the article: “The disaggregation of data for the ‘four nations’ that everyone claims to be concerned about should be established at source; by which I mean at the point the data is initially captured.”

            It is quite possible for HMRC/Treasury to apply the resources to capture much more of the data by country. The term “break out” that you used actually means proxies/theoretical apportionments that are subject to many inaccuracies, and not to data capture by country (it isn’t actually broken out it is [over] “simplified”). It is not clear (for example) which companies are apportioned by employment and which by registered office.

          4. John S Warren says:

            “Free comment certainly includes interpretation” is something, in the spirit of Voltaire, I would seek to approve, but:

            “the GERS deniers have a lot in common with the Holocaust deniers” is, and remains simply despicable.

  24. John S Warren says:

    My pleasure. You make my point.

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      No, and indeed the reverse is true. Yes HMRC, COULD disaggregate, but at what cost, at who’s instruction, and in what time frame, and for what increase in accuracy? sheesh.

      And yeah, most Holocaust deniers don’t like being compared with SNP’s aversion to data, neither, but facts can be inconvenient sometimes.

      bpr, &c.


      1. John S Warren says:

        As I said, you make my point. Keep going.

        And many thanks for illustrating my case so vividly.

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          the last word is yours.

          1. John S Warren says:

            “Not one now, to mock your own grinning–quite chop-fallen”.

  25. Casper1066 says:

    Thanks for your time and explaination on the GER’s, it has been questionable for a while and clearly explained by yourself. Scotland does deserve better, irrespective of who Scotland puts in government. I do think the likes of Darling, Brown etc (there are many) had their own agenda’s in not addressing the glaringly obvious. Scotland and her future generations have paid the price for this.
    The quality of MSP’s to today do not promote confidence, I believe SNP are doing better at, pulling in experts to plug the holes of experience within the Government, all for the better of us. But 308 years of willful neglect will not be fixed in 9 years. Media, broadcasters. radio ,BBC, Scottish Labour, Scottish Lib dems, Scottish Tories all have keep Scotland blind and deaf for many years.

    2014 Referendum and the internet is giving people access to sources and people, these other mediums would not allow us to hear or question. Scotland is growing up. Thanks

    1. John S Warren says:

      My pleasure.

  26. Pete Lennox says:

    Whit a stramash.

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