The Surrealism of The Scotsman and GERS

The annual GERS figures produces a churn of Opinion and predictable re-tread of arguments.

This from Scotsman Editorial though takes us into new territory …

Consider the logic in this piece ‘GERS figures: An independent Scotland would be plunged into an economic crisis that would wreck efforts to tackle climate change’.

The latest annual report on the state of Scotland’s finances contains a wealth of information, but two figures stand out. Scotland’s public spending deficit was £19.1 billion in 2022-23 and, without North Sea oil and gas revenues, it would have been £28.5 billion.

The staggering gap between national income and expenditure (representing nine per cent of Scotland’s gross domestic product, compared to 5.2 per cent for the UK) is only possible because Scotland is part of the Union. If it were to become independent overnight, there seems little doubt that swingeing cuts to public services would follow. As Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Michael Marra said, these figures expose “the SNP’s plans for independence as little more than a charter for austerity.”

“In such circumstances, staving off economic collapse would necessarily be the top priority for the government of an independent Scotland. And the £9.4 billion of North Sea revenue for 2022-23 would be like a liferaft to a drowning sailor. So independence presents a very real threat to Scotland’s efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions, with ministers of this parlous new state virtually forced to take up Rishi Sunak’s mantra about “maxing out” North Sea oil and gas.”

“However, there is hope. The government’s independent advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, has estimated that between 135,000 and 725,000 new jobs could be created in low-carbon sectors by 2030. But doing so will require a huge investment of government time and resources to stimulate the markets. Chatting about independence is just one of many distractions from this generation’s great task: preventing climate change from spiralling out of control and futureproofing the economy.”

Now take a seat. This won’t take long.

The argument seems to go that:

a) The only option is to be lashed to a political entity that has promised to ‘Max Out’ the North Sea and committed to commissioning 100 new oil licences

b) To do anything other is to risk “a very real threat to Scotland’s efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions”.

This is insane.

This is TINA thinking so contorted and narrow it’s unbelievable.

Faced with massive climate breakdown and with the IPCC and the IEA demanding no further fossil fuel expansion, The Scotsman has written this anonymous editorial. No surprise for the winner of the Bad Climate Media  – but deeply strange. As the IEA stated in 2021: ‘No new oil, gas or coal development if world is to reach net zero by 2050, says world energy body’:

“Exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year and no new coal-fired power stations can be built if the world is to stay within safe limits of global heating and meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2050”.

In the world of The Scotsman there are no economic alternatives to an oil economy and Scotland is – unlike other small nations uniquely incapable of organising any alternative at all.  In their desperate gleeful rush to celebrate Scotland’s economic instability, the Unionist media has now descended into unprecedented levels of absurdism.

Added to this after 316 years Scotland is poor, impoverished even, for reasons never explained. We are just essentially poor, as if this is a natural state of being. We are a mendicant nation, yet strangely rich enough to transform the whole British economy. Scotland is simultaneously too poor to be independent but rich enough to “power up Britain.”

That’s quite a paradox.

We are being lied to, systematically. Scotland’s notional ‘national’ newspaper is publishing in Doublespeak arguing that the only solution to the climate crisis is to drill for more oil and the only viable economic model is one which is destroying the earth.

Comments (17)

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  1. Blair Breton says:

    Independence shows a different economic situation. Firms would need subsidiaries to trade in Scotland and all their revenue and profit paid into the Scots economy. All of the oil money would come to Scotland. All duty due on spirits would come to Scotland. The huge amount of energy would be sold to England and elsewhere. All Vat would be paid to Scotland independence is radically different to GERS

  2. MacGilleRuadh says:

    I think the truth of the matter is Scotland would have a difficult decade after independence while an alternative economic model is built and implemented. This is due to the debilitating starting position of Scotland from within this dysfunctional union. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise. The SNP or other indy supporting parties would be well advised to craft some sort of plan for the country after independence which acknowledges the tough times ahead but which also clearly points out the promise and how to realise that. But of course the SNP have not troubled themselves with this, instead being content to pursue passing bandwagons and becoming extra ordinally complacent, lazy and arrogant.
    If the SNP are not capable of presenting this plan, vision call it what you will, they should, quite frankly disband.
    The Scotsman and its unionist readership cannot see potential in anything other than a subservient state-let within a glorious United Kingdom. I wonder how the editorial writer thinks of the Republic of Ireland. Until 2016 the RoI economy long term trend was to catch up with and then slowly pull away from that of the UK in terms of GDP/capita. But since then UK has flatlined while the RoI has doubled. I wonder what happened around 2016?
    It is true things are not perfect in respect of the RoI economy (too dependent on a small number of multinationals) but arguably this is a country with less resources than Scotland but which is running budget surpluses despite increasing spending significantly. Not something that could ever be possible in this benighted land of course.

    1. “Scotland would have a difficult decade after independence while an alternative economic model is built and implemented”. No doubt, no one would suggest otherwise. Repair from centuries of under investment needs time, but this is not in dispute

      1. Graeme McCormick says:

        What evidence is there that Scotland would have a difficult decade developing our society and economy following dissolution of the Union?

        There is none, only assumptions.

        Around 15 % of the electorate who are sympathetic to Independence but will make their decision on their perception of how the process and effect of Independence will impact on their pocket, are hardly going to be encouraged by such a sweeping statement . These people’s vote has to be bought.

        Every policy of the SG must be tested through the prism of Independence. Will it advance the cause ?

        The SG must use the powers it possesses to raise all public funding to demonstrate that it has control of these funds and introduce a significant Universal Basic Income. It could replace all existing taxes and avoid replicating the complex UK taxation system with the introduction of Annual Ground, Floor and Roof Rent . It’s simple, is easy to introduce as most of the infrastructure is in place , and raises far more funds than existing taxes by forcing public and private owners of all land and property to steward it to pay AGFRR levied on it. Some 60% of all dilapidated and vacant land in urban Scotland is owned by the public sector. The price of these properties will fall signifianctly creating a major economic boost to local and national economy.

        1. MacGilleRuadh says:

          Why do you think the SNP completely ignores your longstanding impassioned advocacy of significant land taxation? I presume in the past it has been to keep on board the Fergus Ewing wing of the party and their desire to keep together a coalition that is capable of winning in leafy Aboyne as well as Cambuslang?

    2. Wul says:

      That “difficult decade” is already baked-in for the whole UK. And beyond.

      It can be a decade of exciting, joyous hard graft working together for a better country, or yet another decade of managed decline, stasis, poverty, extreme inequality, authoritarianism and mendacity handcuffed to an extreme right-wing cabal.

      1. Also – what is the UK’s current debt?

  3. Wul says:

    “….the £9.4 billion of North Sea revenue for 2022-23 would be like a liferaft ….”

    £9.4 Billion eh? That looks pretty shite next to the £75.3 Billion that Norway earned from it’s own oil & gas in the same year.

    If only we lived in a country with 20% of Europe’s planned off-shore wind power, 50% of the world’s installed tidal stream capacity, 85% of the UK’s hydro-power generation, 62% of the UK’s off-shore maritime area, 17% – 38% of the UK’s entire natural wealth , 90% of the UK’s fresh water, the capacity to generate all our electricity needs from renewable sources…….. Oh wait!

    Utter shite from The Scotsman. Scotland can join the long list of countries that “couldn’t afford” to be independent from the UK. Until they did.

  4. John says:

    If GERS is a snapshot of Scotland’s economic position inside UK to outside UK surely the negative impacts of Westminster’s decision’s on Scotland’s economic situation should be included for balance. eg much did being outside EU cost Scotland’s economy in the year. much did the Truss/Kwarteng budget cost Scotland’s economy last year.
    These are negative economic impacts of decisions taken by Westminster against wishes of electorate in Scotland.
    I am sure there are other examples.

  5. Jake Solo says:

    Nobody disputes the first decade will be difficult? I do.

    We give rUK 10 years to move the nuclear subs from Faslane to somewhere down south and charge them £50 billion index-linked per year rent until they’re away.

    That’s sweetie money for the controller of fiat £GBP and the start up costs for the new country are more than paid in full.

  6. Tom Ultuous says:

    The GERS figures, which can be found on the Scottish govt website, are compiled by the FOA Institute BUT they are dependent on figures supplied by Westminster. As Richard Murphy said “the Scottish govt must do better on GERS”.
    Feb 2023
    Ireland’s national debt now stands at 44,000 euro per person in the country.
    UK’s national debt now stands at 50,279 euro per person in the country (lookup nationaldebtclock).
    The poorest Irish have a standard of living almost 63% higher than the poorest in the UK. (Financial Times).
    Consider the wealth of natural resources Scotland has compared to Ireland. Oil, massive wind/wave energy potential, whisky and much larger fishing waters.
    Question: So how come the Irish are much better off than the Scots?
    Answer: They’re not a colony of the UK.
    All of the above is easily checked with single line browser searches yet the collaborators in Scotland refuse to believe anything that does not emanate from their colonial masters.
    Note, the ROI is just an example. The average French & German household was around 9K a year better off than its UK equivalent pre-COVID (Financial Times) and that will be more like 12K now. Since the Tories took over, the UK is worse off compared to any EU country. Look up ‘theatlantic – How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe’.

  7. David B says:

    So what’s the SNP position on oil & gas extraction? They say they want to stop new licences, then criticise Labour when they pledge to do exactly that.

    Meanwhile ScotGov have privatised what could be our entire offshore wind resource at probably 1/10th market value.

    1. Blair Breton says:

      Licences are for exploration not production. They may not go into production. That said governments do not want to break legal agreements made by their predecessors. So in this case is Tories sign up Labour has honour or negotiate termination.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      The Scottish govt did say that the opposition’s comparisons on the market value for those licences weren’t based on like for like. They were comparing the area involved (Scottish deep sea waters) with some land area in the US that would be far easier to build on. I’ve no idea who’s right but I’d take the opposition claims with a pinch of salt.
      What i did read was that the licences given out in that recent sell off needed renewed in 10 years (in England some licences are for 50 years) and there were a lot of conditions attached regarding the creation of green jobs for the local workforce. Whether the private companies live up to those conditions and whether the Scottish govt refuse licence renewal if they don’t remains to be seen.
      I’m assuming that, In an independent Scotland, the govt could nationalise any windfarm once the licence ran out.

      1. David B says:

        @TomUltuous – the “conditions” on green jobs are effectively non-binding. Option holders pay a maximum fine of £250k for failing to deliver them. Our local options holder recently refused to attend a renewables careers fair at the local high school where their onshore hub is based.

        We’ll never know how much the ScotWind auction would have raised because ScotGov made the insane decision to cap a competitive auction. They commissioned a private energy consultancy which advised them to do this, but by their own figures the price cap could have been set at £1m/ sq km, rather than the actual £100k/ sq km, and still allowed Scottish wind farms to remain competitive against English ones, even allowing for the extra costs of floating offshore.

        I don’t think the 10 year thing is quite accurate. That sounds like the length of time the option holders have to move beyond options phase. The leases are likely to be nearer 60 years once signed, though Common Weal and others are pushing for shorter leases.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          The cap does sound like lunacy.
          From the Crown Estate website
          [Key points
          • There are 20 ScotWind projects with seabed option agreements. The first 17
          successful projects were announced in April 2022. These were joined in October
          2022 by three further projects, granted agreements through the Clearing process.
          • These agreements are for up to ten years. Crown Estate Scotland will offer a full
          seabed lease (enabling projects to be built and operated) once developers have
          secured the necessary consents, licences, and finance.]
          It says “up to 10 years” there but it’s a bit obscure as to whether agreement is the same as licence.

          1. David B says:

            Aye, that’s the options agreement. It’s the same length in England. EIA consent, leases and Contract for Difference (i.e. contract for supplying the grid) are all still to be agreed.

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