Alex Salmond: ‘merchants of doom’ were wrong about recession

Alex Salmond claimed the "merchants of doom" had got economy predictions wrong. Picture: John Devlin
Alex Salmond claimed the "merchants of doom" had got economy predictions wrong. Picture: John Devlin
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Alex Salmond has slammed the BBC, Unionist politicians and the mainstream media for coverage of Scotland’s GDP figures.

The Former First Minister’s comments came after the latest GDP figures revealed the Scottish economy had defied predictions and avoided a recession.

It is the economy stupid and there is nothing more stupid than a politician who misreads the economy.

Alex Salmond

Scotland experienced a 0.8 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2017, four times the rate of UK GDP growth over the same period.

Writing in The National, Mr Salmond took aim at economists from Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander institute who had forecast a “lost decade” and flatlining growth.

The former MP said: “No doubt a few Fraser of Allander economists are pondering..the full extent of their misreading of Scottish economic statistics.

“It may be time once again to bring out the legendary ‘Fraser eraser’.”

READ MORE: Scotland’s economy escapes recession and out performs UK

READ MORE: SNP slams opposition parties ‘desperate for recession’

Mr Salmond continued: “The first-quarter surge in Scottish GDP caught the Fraser economists by surprise. Point eight of one per cent doesn’t sound all that much but, in fact, it is FOUR times the comparable UK figure.”

The ex-SNP leader, who lost his Gordon seat in June’s General Elections, then turned his attention to rival politicians and the mainstream media.

He said: “However, whatever the embarrassment for the Fraser Institute, it is as of nothing compared to the abject humiliation of Unionist politicians, the mainstream media and the BBC. They have all been holed amidships.”

“In one fell swoop they have all been laid low and if the SNP Government is sensible they will endeavour to remind these merchants of doom of that on a daily basis for many months to come.

“It is the economy stupid and there is nothing more stupid than a politician who misreads the economy.”

Mr Salmond singled out the BBC for particular criticism and said the corporation was “greatly to blame” for misreporting the likelihood of a recession.

He specifically highlighted the Sunday Politics Scotland programme’s coverage and called on presenter Gordon Brewer to “look back very carefully” on the decision to base the show by “treating a forecast as fact”.

Mr Salmond also accused Labour and the Conservatives of “talking down” Scotland, claiming they were hoping for a recession so they could blame it on the prospect of a second independence referendum.

The former First Minister has criticised the BBC’s coverage of Scottish politics on a number of other occasions. In August last year he accused the corporation of having a “blatant” anti-independence bias.

In an interview with the i in 2015, the former First Minister also said that his “biggest regret” of the independence campaign had been failing to foresee the extent of the corporation’s “institutional bias”.

The BBC has always denied bias of any kind. In response to Mr Salmond’s latest comments, a spokesman said: “Our coverage focused on reporting expert economic indicators to which we gave full context and analysis.

“We made it clear in our coverage of the original Fraser of Allander report last week and the official figures published on Wednesday that regardless of whether Scotland was technically in recession or not, it’s the general trend that is important.

“Our output on Sunday Politics, Good Morning Scotland and Reporting Scotland had contributions from all sides reflecting on this.”

Professor Graeme Roy, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute and a former senior adviser to the Scottish Government, said: “Our reports on the current health of the Scottish economy are based on rigorous independent analysis and are made publicly available for all.

“The Fraser of Allander Institute is proud to bring together internationally-renowned economists to provide informed analysis to a wider audience than ever before. Our latest Commentary and analysis of this week’s positive GDP figures provide a comprehensive and impartial assessment of current trends in the Scottish economy – analysis which is entirely consistent with both this week’s GDP data and wider economic indicators.”

When the GDP figures were announced on Wednesday, Scottish economy secretary Keith Brown said: “The fundamentals of Scotland’s economy are strong. Scotland’s output is now 6 per cent above the pre-recession level and unemployment is at its lowest ever level.”

The economic rise marks the highest rate of quarterly growth in Scotland since the end of 2014. Services in Scotland grew by 0.3 per cent in the first quarter, although it was more gloomy news for the construction industry which shrank by 0.7 per cent.

However, On an annual basis, Scotland saw growth of just 0.5 per cent, compared to 1.9 per cent UK-wide.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the recovery was “very encouraging”. He said: “The Scottish economy is returning to growth and I am pleased to see that the manufacturing sector in particular is making the most of export opportunities. But, over the year, Scotland has continued to lag behind the UK as a whole – so there is still a lot of work to do.”

READ MORE: Bill Jamieson: Scotland escaped recession, but can we trust figures?