Readers' Opinion: GERS tells us nothing about prospects of an independent Scotland

IT’S a bit rich for Alex Gallagher (Letters, August 11) to be critical of Alex Orr’s “economic literacy” (Letters, August 10) when he goes on himself to portray the reality of an independent Scotland based on the figures in GERS, a document that Ian Lang boasted to John Major was “just what was needed in our campaign to maintain the initiative and undermine the other parties”. More importantly, though, GERS suffers from several shortcomings to inform us about an independent Scotland.

First much of the data necessary for complete accuracy simply does not exist. For instance, much of it is based on best estimates and/or population shares. Quite simply we don’t know the true situation with precision.

Secondly, and more importantly, other figures are simply attributed to Scotland by HM Treasury – most notably Scotland is attributed a population share of debt. Of course it might be an independent Scotland would accept this, but that would have to be negotiated. Therefore, if, as became apparent during the last referendum debate, Westminster insists on being the continuator state – the UK as before – while it would indeed get all the assets (except those on Scottish territory) it would also have to take all the debts. Clearly debt negotiation would be the subject of very detailed discussions, and simply to assume a population share for Scotland as an independent state is simplistic beyond any realism.

Moreover, on the spending side of the balance sheet, there is the implied assumption that Scotland would continue to spend on the same priorities as the rest of the UK do now. For instance, a population share of UK defence spending is put against Scotland in GERS. So too is a population share of current “Projects of National Significance” – which disproportionately are in London, so Crossrail, previously the Olympics and so on. As an English-based newspaper noted the other day, “the Department for Transport will spend just £280 per person in the North over the next four years of Conservative government – compared with £1,870 per person in London”. Being independent we would no longer contribute to the latter, while the former is highly questionable.

As Jim and Margaret Cuthbert have shown in their many years of analysis of GERS, it is by no means a full set of accounts, and currently 40 per cent of the costs are not under the control of the Scottish Government, being reserved to Westminster. Perhaps Mr Gallagher, in order to demonstrate his own economic literacy would do better to base his arguments on a more reliable source, rather than the “fantasy economics” of GERS?

As for his charge that the SNP was “misleading us on EU membership”, clearly irony is alive and well in Largs. Either that or the papers from June 24 have not arrived there yet.

Alasdair Galloway,

14 Silverton Avenue, Dumbarton.

THE economy is tanking due because a Tory Prime Minister sought to buy off warring factions in his own party by promising a referendum on Europe which went horribly wrong. Rather than stick around to try to sort out the resultant mess, he resigned and produced an honours list which has been met with incredulous criticism. His party plans to gerrymander electoral boundaries in order to make it all but impossible for it to ever be thrown out of office. The famous “Vow” that sunk Scottish independence has proved to be no more than a collection of empty promises that can be negated with impunity. All the much vaunted austerity has delivered is an economy so weak that the prospect of paying off the National Debt is even further away than ever. Food banks are the only way much of the populace can feed their children. In short, it’s all a mess which could have been foreseen and forestalled by a government with a bit of vision.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Scotland tells us what the solution to all the problems the nation he is supposed to represent and defend is simply for the SNP to renounce its founding principles and stick with his failed Union in perpetuity (“Mundell seeks to reassure key industry figures following Leave vote”, The Herald, November 11). It’s a bit like a doctor prescribing a higher dose of the medication that is making his patient to worse.

The idea of sticking by principles may seem bizarre to the average Conservative but I am proud to be a member of a party that keeps its founding principles always to the fore.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale, Loanhead.

RECENT pronouncements by SNP politicians have been surprising to say the least. MSP Alex Neill says there is “little chance” of Scotland staying in the EU after Brexit. This chimes in with MEP Alyn Smith’s recent statement that EU accession – presented as “automatic” in 2014 – would be “anything but automatic”.

On the prospects of the economy in an independent Scotland we have had MP George Kerevan’s forecast of at least five years of “painful” austerity and former MSP Kenny Macaskill’s admission that freebies such as prescriptions and university tuition could only be funded by increasing taxes – confirming MP Angus Robertson’s admission that “not everything is going to be easy”.

None of these pronouncements comes as a surprise to informed observers but they are a far cry from the Utopian rhetoric of 2014. Dissension in the SNP ranks is virtually unheard of – so what is going on here? Rather than an uncharacteristic outbreak of honesty is this a carefully planned policy of getting the voters accustomed to inconvenient truths by gradual drip-feeding?

The claim that we would live in a “more prosperous society” was not swallowed in 2014 and would be laughed at now. So Nicola Sturgeon’s new narrative seems to be to sweep under the carpet the existing pre-Brexit harsh economic facts such as the collapse in the oil industry, a £15 billion deficit and zero growth in the first quarter of this year and to contend that any economic woes coming our way are entirely due to the Brexit fall out. The initially surprising apparent outbreak of honesty in the SNP ranks chiming in with this narrative may be the beginnings of a warts and all bash at independence and an attempt to disguise the fact that there is little else going for it other than trying to pretend that there is “democratic outrage” out there which is every bit as inflamed as Ms Sturgeon’s own faux version.

Colin Hamilton,

3 Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh.

THE First Minister’s intention of borrowing to finance some capital expenditure projects (“Sturgeon bids to steal march on May”, The Herald, August 10) is commendable, especially since it is merely copying the UK Government’s intentions. There is however an adverse impact. The annual repayment, together with interest, will be a charge on each year’s revenue budget which means that, in order to cover this additional cost, either other services will have to be cut or taxes will have to rise. I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon will be highlighting this aspect.

David S W Williamson,

49 Pinnaclehill Park, Kelso.

I RECENTLY came across a suggestion that Norway might exercise its veto should the UK seek to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in order to gain access to the single European market. There is concern that the entry of a country the size of the UK (population 65 million) would seriously imbalance the operation and decision-making processes of EFTA currently made up of four countries with a combined population of 14 million.

Never mind, I am confident that the combined brain-power of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox will bring us through the stormy waters which lie ahead. Are we not fortunate indeed to have men of such remarkable foresight and awareness of the issues in charge of our future?

John Milne,

9 Ardgowan Drive, Uddingston.

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