Gers figures reveal white paper slips

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Your Nationalist correspondent Alex Orr (Letters, 13 March) states that the new Gers figures imply Scots pay £400 more per head in tax, receiving £1,200 more in public spending than the rest of the UK.

That makes a net £800 Union dividend per every adult head, and I thank him for accepting that the No vote has preserved this stabilising benefit.

He, nevertheless, of course continues to think independence would do better.

The facts are these: we Scots have not paid more tax per head based on onshore tax revenues; in 2011-12 the gap, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, was £141. Scots paid less. Bringing in oil is the key.

In the boom year 2011-12 a full £10 billion could have been added (geographical share basis) to £49.2bn of onshore taxes.

But this number, based on Scotland having 87 per cent of the oil fields, had already fallen to nearer £4.67bn in the year ending March 2014, before the collapse in oil prices.

2014/5 may only produce a run rate of £2bn of attributable revenues. Oil is no longer very material to public finances, and the pressure is for the tax rates to be cut.

By September 2014 the oil tax revenue argument had already suffered a huge blow; and the recent Gers figures are the beginning of recognition that we account for an overweight proportion of formerly off-balance sheet debt obligations, such as rail and PFI/PPP projects.

This situation further justifies at some point an impartial investigation into why the March 2014 white paper was allowed to stand in the public arena right up to September 2014 without official correction to its many seemingly exaggerated or partial data sets.

The issues were knowable at the time.

Peter Smaill

Currie Mains

Borthwick

While listening to finance secretary John Swinney’s 
attempts to explain away the latest economic figures for Scotland, I was concerned that when he was asked about a possible shortfall in spending following devolved fiscal powers, he brought up the “no detriment” clause 
in the Smith recommendations.

Does this mean that if the SNP government makes a mess of the Scottish economy it will demand that the “no detriment” clause is enacted to bail it out?

Paul Lewis

Guardwell Crescent

Edinburgh

Are Jackie Baillie and Danny Alexander shooting themselves in the foot by emphasising the Union dividend?

This extra £1,200 per head is covered by the Barnett Formula or by the wider UK economy, both euphemisms for the English tax payer.

A Yorkshire friend once complained to me that it was unfair that Scots should have all these advantages when the north-east of England had suffered as much as Scotland from the extinction of heavy industry.

My jocular answer was that this is the price you pay for ruling over us!

This desire to rule is as strong as ever, from Longshanks’ invasions through Churchill’s desire not to be the one who “lost India”, to the threats and promises of all the Westminster parties in the referendum.

So who will be best placed to ensure the Union dividend continues? If we elect Dannys from Labour or the Liberals they may be seduced by a job in the Treasury or the Foreign Office.

But if we elect 59 SNP members to Westminster I think they will be a much stronger force.

Some may call it blackmail, but that is politics.

George Shering

West Acres Drive

Newport-on-Tay

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