North Sea oil revenues would put Scotland in the black - report

SCOTLAND'S public finances would be in the black if it received its share of revenue from North Sea oil and gas, official figures showed today.

But Labour insisted that if roads, schools and hospital building are taken into account, Scotland would still have a deficit of almost 4 billion.

The Gers (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) report published today, intensified the row about whether Scotland pays its own.

Without the oil money the country would have an annual deficit of more than 10 billion in 2008-09, the report shows.

But with a geographical share of North Sea revenue Scotland would have a Budget surplus of 1.3 billion, 0.9% of GDP.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said today: "This is the fourth year to record a Scottish current budget surplus, even as the UK moved into recession, and the cumulative value of Scotland's surplus since 2005-06 now stands at some 3.5 billion compared to a UK deficit over the same period of 72.3 billion.

"These figures reinforce the case for Scotland determining its own tax and spending decisions, and managing other key economic levers, with the powers of financial responsibility and independence."

The UK was in deficit to the tune of 48.9 billion, or 3.4% of GDP, with all North Sea revenues in 2008-09.

The figures, compiled by Scottish Government statisticians, also set out the fiscal deficit which includes building on capital projects like roads, schools and hospitals.

This year's fiscal figures also take in the impact from Scotland's share of the 700-million bail out of the financial sector in 2008-09.

This scenario leaves Scotland with a deficit of 3.8 billion, even including a geographical share of oil and gas revenue, but at 2.6% of GDP this is below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average of 3.3% in 2008, while the UK-wide figure was 6.7%.

Without the oil money, the fiscal deficit for Scotland was 15.5 billion, 13.5% of GDP.

Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr said today the figures show that an independent Scotland would be "dangerously dependent on volatile oil prices".

He said: "North Sea oil production has been steadily decreasing for the last five years. It would be wrong to mortgage Scotland's future on the price of oil."

The former finance minister added: "It is also clear from these figures that there is only a surplus if you don't include spending on schools, hospitals and roads.

"Are the SNP proposing to close down the NHS and educate children at home?"

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