Scottish economy shows ‘worrying signs of distress’

The claim was made by economist John McLaren. Picture: Kate Chandler
The claim was made by economist John McLaren. Picture: Kate Chandler
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A leading financial expert claimed Scotland’s economy is showing “worrying signs of distress” yesterday after growth per person fell behind that of the UK as a whole.

The claim was made by economist John McLaren after official figures showed that Scottish GDP per head of population is now 1 per cent lower than that of the UK.

The dramatic fall in the oil price was largely to blame for the decline, which came to light following analysis of Quarterly National Accounts Scotland published by the Scottish Government’s chief statistician yesterday.

Mr McLaren, honorary professor of economics at Glasgow University business school, examined the figures, which summarised Scotland’s economic performance up to the third quarter of 2015.

Scotland’s poor growth per person compared with the rest of the UK contrasted with the situation two years ago when the figure was 6 per cent in Scotland’s favour.

Mr McLaren pointed out that it was over 15 per cent in Scotland’s favour in 2008.

GDP per head of population was the measure used by the SNP to argue that Scotland was in a stronger economic position than the rest of the UK during the referendum.

In the run-up to the 2014 vote, Alex Salmond used the measure to claim that Scotland would be the sixth wealthiest country in the OECD league table, a substantial improvement on the UK’s number 16 placing.

The figures were published as Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the SNP’s post-referendum demand for Scotland to be handed all power over tax and spend, including oil taxation and revenue, would have resulted in “financial calamity”.

Scotland’s geographical share of North Sea revenues amounted to only £21 million in Q3, as against £2,700 million in the same quarter of 2011 and £4,300 million in 2008.

Also of cause for concern was Scotland’s trade performance. Scotland’s (onshore) net Trade position in Quarter 3 was -£4.25 billion, the highest deficit on record.

Mr McLaren said: “Scotland’s economy continues to show worrying signs of distress.

“The fall in GDP per capita to below the level of the UK is clearly connected to the on-going decline in North Sea activity and output.

“The worsening trade position, largely with respect to the UK, is a bigger worry as it has real implications for Scottish prosperity and jobs.”

Finance secretary John Swinney acknowledged there were challenges in the oil and gas sector, but said onshore revenues had grown by nearly £1 billion.