The Gers figures in your report (12 March) reveal a massive deficit in the Scottish budget for the year 2013-14 –considerably higher than that for the UK as a whole. Yet still Nicola Surgeon continues the clamour for full fiscal autonomy.
Finance secretary John Swinney, despite being asked repeatedly by Sarah Smith on the BBC (11 March) how he proposed to plug the gap, simply evaded the question and repeatedly claimed that if only Scotland had full control of the fiscal and economic levers then somehow all would be well.
It comes as no surprise that SNP politicians refuse to let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite but what is astonishing is that, if the opinion polls are accurate, the voters are apparently being taken in by the spin.
John McLaren, an economist for Fiscal Affairs Scotland, makes the comment (same issue) that “achieving higher growth is by no means straightforward, and we are not yet clear how [greater powers] will be used to produce such an effect.” Precisely.
Is it not about time that SNP ministers, rather than endlessly beating the “anti-austerity” drum and promising pie in the sky, faced up to the facts or came up with some “transformational” economic policies.
Braid Hills Avenue
Wednesday’s Scotsman told me that money received for deployment by Holyrood under the Barnett Formula exceeds its equivalent in England by £1,374 per person.
Your report on Thursday (12 March) tells me that spending from the public purse per head, in Scotland in 2014, was only £1,200 more per person than that spent on the English.
Since the Scottish Government has already received the 2014 money to spend on my behalf, I look forward to receiving a cheque from the First Minister for £174, representing the difference between the money received from the Treasury to spend on me, and that actually spent.
Or is that where the money to subsidise the Holyrood Parliament bistro and canteen comes from?
Seriously though, I make that more than £600 million of an underspend that the Scottish Government should be explaining to us, and if the money is no longer there I wonder where it went.
Yet again the latest public finance figures for Scotland (Gers) have attracted celebratory cheers from unionist harbingers of doom, gleefully highlighting the state of the public finances had we voted for independence last September.
What they fail to mention, however, is the fact that Scots paid more tax per head than every other part of the UK, except London, the South-east and East of England.
Indeed, on average we paid £400 more in tax per head than the UK as a whole.
Less positively, the country’s deficit was 8.1 per cent of GDP compared with a UK deficit of 5.6 per cent, but that is within the current Union.
And let us not forget that in previous years the UK deficit has exceeded the Scottish deficit by a similar margin. This is no reason why the UK should not be able to stand on its own two feet any more than Scotland should.
What the figures highlight is that Scotland is indeed a prosperous country, with all the fundamentals in place to allow us to thrive.
However, it is difficult to fine tune our economy, as the Gers figures clearly point out, without the necessary fiscal levers of power. And these clearly will not be delivered through the Smith Commission proposals.
Only with full fiscal independence will we be able to remove ourselves from the straitjacket of the UK and ensure that Scottish policies can be devised to address Scotland’s needs, boosting our economy.
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, we heard several times about the SNP policy to boost the economy by £180 billion (over what time period wasn’t made clear ) – a sum described as “modest”.
At other times, the sum of £100bn for Trident (an amount to be spent over 20 years or so) is described by them as “horrendous” – a bit of consistency would not go amiss! (And Trident will also boost the economy.)
Bo’ness, West Lothian