GERS is an estimate of Scotland’s position within a Union where all the major energy, economic and taxation decisions are taken at Westminster. An independent Scotland would take different choices and the question that needs to be addressed is why Scotland’s GDP is much less than the other small advanced economies in western Europe.
Scotland is a country with more natural wealth and economic resources per head than any European nation. More than 80 per cent of the UK’s oil and gas production comes from Scotland’s waters, plus Scotland has 25% of Europe’s entire offshore wind power resources, 25% of Europe’s tidal energy resources and 10% of its wave energy potential while our renewable electricity exports to the rest of the UK don’t show up in GERS. An independent Scotland would be in a position to provide much cheaper energy for our households and businesses. Scotland also exports more food and drink per head than the rest of the UK but this sector is also suffering from a Brexit we didn’t vote for.
GERS attributes a nominal amount from Scotland’s oil and gas production whereas Norway’s government with a similar output raised £15 billion last year in direct taxation. In 2022 Norway’s oil revenues are estimated to raise £56bn whereas the UK’s lenient taxation regime will only raise £12bn from Scotland’s waters.
Apart from having the worst inflation levels in the G7, the UK is in long-term relative economic decline, falling further behind countries of a similar size to Scotland. The choice Scotland faces is whether to remain part of the declining UK economy, or to grasp the opportunity of taking responsibility for improving the performance of the Scottish economy.
Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.
WHY REPORT IS A JOKE
ANOTHER GERS day is here and the unionists are proclaiming the usual nonsense that Scotland is too poor to go it alone. At the same time, the UK Government is terrified at the prospect of losing Scotland. The reason is simple – Scotland is far too valuable to the UK. Its oil and gas, renewables, land and water are desperately needed by England. Because of course if Scotland really were a burden on the UK, they would cut us loose immediately.
It’s becoming tedious to restate why GERS is such a joke, but here goes. GERS would have us believe that Scotland runs a deficit twice as big as the UK. That’s absurd. GERS was dreamed up by the Tories in the 1990s to forever show that Scotland isn’t financially viable. It’s a uniquely English agenda imposed on Scotland.
GERS deliberately vastly understates revenue and vastly overstates expenditure. More than £30 billion is not spent in Scotland at all. In addition, GERS allocates £4.5bn to Scotland for servicing UK debt that Scotland didn’t create or benefit from.
Professor Richard Murphy contends that if England published its own GERS, it would show all regions in deficit apart from the City of London and the south-east. That’s because money floods south-east, most of which consists of rents. It would show how distorted and unbalanced the UK economy actually is. An independent Scotland would have a far more balanced economy.
The question is why the SNP Government continues to publish this gibberish, providing a stick for the unionists with which to beat Scotland.
Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.
WE JUST CAN'T AFFORD INDY
SO the First Minister ignored the publication of the annual GERS figures in favour of adding yet another attention-seeking Edinburgh Fringe Festival appearance to her showbiz CV. Meanwhile, in an elegant coincidence, Adam Tomkins in his column today ("This is not the first time Sturgeon’s mask has slipped", The Herald, August 24) cites Nicola Sturgeon's "love of reading".
One of the too-infrequently noted features of that love of reading is that Ms Sturgeon appears to have read a great many books but learned nothing from any of them. Now we can add her own Government's account of how much of Scotland's public finances are dependent on redistribution from London and the south-east of England to that tottering pile.
After all, the lesson which she and all nationalists ought to learn from GERS is so simple surely only the infantile could miss it: even if they want independence, Scotland cannot afford it.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow.
ROBIN HOOD IN REVERSE
WHILE I admire Ruth Marr's thoughtful and articulate letters I sometimes don't agree with her. Today (August 24) she states that "the population of Scotland will continue not to be charged at the counter for our medical prescriptions".
This populist policy of the SNP only benefited higher taxpayers, with approximately 80 per cent of people already receiving free prescriptions. It is hardly a progressive measure when it's targeted at those who can afford it. The money it costs could be better used to pay deserving NHS staff a decent pay rise.
This is Robin Hood in reverse – taking from the poor to benefit the rich.
I've heard it said that these prescription charges are a tax on health. If that's the case why not abolish dental charges?
If the SNP had a progressive bone in its body it would reinstate prescription charges for those who can afford it. Will it? Not a chance.
Ian McNair, Cellardyke.
SNP LACKS TALENT AND VISION
IT is hard to disagree with Jill Stephenson’s criticism of Nicola Sturgeon (Letters, August 24).
That our First Minister, in an excruciating television interview, puts the failure to create a national not-for-profit energy company down to her entire Government concentrating on Covid only confirms a lack of talent and vision in Holyrood.
It is even harder to disagree with Robert Menzies’ dismemberment of Liz Truss (Letters, August 24). That she should be considered the best choice to be our next Prime Minister is quite, quite lamentable.
Emmanuel Macron said: “When politics is no longer a mission but a profession, politicians become more self-serving than public servants”.
Heaven help us all.
Alan Carmichael, Glasgow.
WHY SUNAK IS THE ONE
I AGREE with Adam Tomkins and Robert Menzies regarding the Scottish Conservatives' lost opportunity at the Perth hustings. I watched all of it and the biggest cheers of the night were for Liz Truss's Attention-Seeker-Plus sound bites rather than Rishi Sunak's plans to use existing procedures to ensure the SNP spends UK taxpayers' money on what it was intended, working with and funding not just Holyrood but also councils and relevant quangos, and beating the nationalist parties at the polls, a fairly open goal his Scottish colleagues have so far failed to work out how to breach.
Some may blame the Boris Johnson effect for this, but he was at least much more polite and businesslike with the SNP than it seems Ms Truss intends, an approach that it is clear Mr Sunak would maintain and be applauded for; that would be an election-winning asset.
Mr Sunak is also proposing to have proper campaign managers in each constituency. This hopefully will mean the Scottish Tory party will start formulating the vision and policies that will fill the vacuum when the SNP runs out of road in a few years' time.
I could make most of these points about Labour and the LibDems, but space and the fact that they are not about to vote in an electoral liability as leader doesn't allow or require it.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.
INDYREF2 WOULD RESOLVE NOTHING
STEWART Falconer (Letters, August 23) throws down the gauntlet to the unionists, saying that they should have the courage of their convictions, and allow the popularity of their view to be tested in a poll which, he claims, would resolve the matter. If only.
I suspect that, given the current state of public opinion as divined by opinion polls, after the distractions and disruptions of the campaign it's likely that the winning margin will be narrow – possibly even in the low-single-figures percentage points range.
Should the unionists prevail, then I don't think that it will be many days before the nationalist side starts proclaimIng "We wuz roabbed"' and the All Under One Banner supporters dust off their placards and flags to begin agitating for Indyref3.
On the other hand, should the nationalists prevail, then I would fear that disgruntled unionists might resort to the tactics adopted by some of the Remainers who refused to accept the outcome of the 2016 EU membership referendum, resorting to massive demonstrations, attempts at sabotage, subterfuge and legal wheezes to derail the process, which perhaps resulted in a much cruder Brexit than was originally anticipated.
Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.