Kezia Dugdale: GERS figures show Nicola Sturgeon "misled" public during independence referendum

Written by Nicholas Mairs and Liam Kirkaldy on 24 August 2016 in News

GERS figures reveal the gap between Scotland’s spending and revenue represents a net fiscal deficit of £14.8bn

Scottish Parliament - credit: Holyrood

New Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2015-16 (GERS) figures show Nicola Sturgeon “misled” the public during the 2014 independence referendum campaign, according to Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

The GERS figures reveal the gap between Scotland’s spending and revenue represents a net fiscal deficit of £14.8bn, including notional share of oil revenues, or 9.5 per cent of GDP.

While the First Minister said the figures show “the foundations of our economy remain strong”, opposition parties argued they undermined the case for independence.


Scotland’s fiscal deficit over twice the UK’s as a percentage of GDP

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Sturgeon said: “Scotland, in terms of economic output per head – and even excluding offshore revenues – remains the most prosperous part of the UK outside of London and South-east England.

“And today’s GERS publication shows that our onshore revenues continue to grow, with revenue increasing by £1.9 billion over the year, more than offsetting the decline in offshore revenue.”

The Scottish Government added that the figures did not account for the economic impact of Brexit.

However the Scottish Conservatives said that if Scotland were independent, the government would have had to “find an additional £8.6 billion to plug the financial hole”.

The party’s finance spokesperson Murdo Fraser said: “When times are tough in Scotland, as they are now, the union means we can top up public spending so we don’t have to make huge cuts to the NHS or increase family tax bills.

“This union dividend amounted to £1600 for every man, woman and child last year, according to these figures. In recent days we have seen the First Minister fear-mongering over the UK’s decision to leave the EU in the hope she can hide the flaws in her own separation plan.

“It would be better if she faced up to the truth – you don’t meet the challenges of leaving one union by quitting one of far more importance to Scotland’s prosperity.”

Dugdale said the figures – which show Scotland still has a deficit well over twice the UK’s as a percentage of GDP, and higher than any other OECD country – were "a reality check for those calling for another independence referendum".

She said: “Being part of the UK means higher spending on the public services like education and the health service that we all rely on.”

“The SNP's own figures confirm independence would mean severe cuts over and above those already being imposed by the Tories, at exactly the time when our public services need more investment."

Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie said the figures proved Scotland needed to end its “reliance on oil and gas, investing in the industries of the 21st century instead”.

He added: “"Diversifying our economy will mean developing a broader range of revenue sources, giving us the confidence to invest in making Scotland a more equal country too.

"That transition is vital for Scotland's present situation, and it's equally clear that the case for independence needs a vision of a stronger, more equal and greener economy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the figures were a “dark day for the economy” and that “the oil shock and the Brexit shock should not be compounded with an independence shock.”

The figures show a slight drop from the last GERS figures, published in March, but Scotland still has a deficit well over twice the UK’s as a percentage of GDP, and higher than any other OECD country.

The UK now has a deficit at 4.1 per cent of GDP. The EU Maastricht treaty in 1997 limited members to a deficit of only 3 per cent of GDP.



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