New figures show Scotland’s finances are worse than the UK’s

The findings will reignite the debate about the sustainability of a fiscally independent Scotland


Scotland’s public finances remain worse than those of the UK as a whole, according to the latest official data published today.

The annual Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) statistics for 2013-14 have shown that falling tax revenue has resulted in a financial deficit north of the border that is more than 40 per cent higher than the rest of the UK.

According to the data, with North Sea Oil revenues included, Scotland was £12.4bn in the red in 2013/14, down from £14.3bn the previous year. This represents a deficit of 8.1 per cent of GDP, compared to the UK figure over the same period of 5.6 per cent,

Meanwhile amidst dramatic falls in the value of oil, more concerning still for Scotland is the news that excluding North Sea revenue, the deficit was £16.4 billion, equivalent to 12.2 per cent of GDP.

The difficult financial position faced in Scotland can be traced to the news that, excluding oil, Scottish onshore tax revenue in Scotland was £50 billion or £9,400 per person, £300 less than the UK average figure.

Including an illustrative geographic share of North Sea revenue, however, total public sector revenue is estimated in Scotland to be at £54.0 billion. This represents £10,100 per person, £400 more than the UK average.

The figures will reignite the debate about the sustainability of a fiscally independent Scotland that would be so reliant on revenue from North Sea Oil.

The GERS data comes also as first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s assertions on debt under SNP plans were contradicted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

In February Ms Sturgeon argued that limiting real terms growth in departmental spending to 0.5% a year “would reduce debt as a share of GDP in every year from 2016-17.”

Speaking yesterday to the David Hume Institute seminar in Edinburgh last night Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, argued that such a policy would in fact see debt increase slightly.

He noted also that there ‘is not a huge amount of difference between Labour and the SNP’ plans to tackle the defici,t despite Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion that the SNP plans would break Westminster’s ‘cosy consensus’ on austerity.

Politicians on all sides will make of the figures what they will in the ongoing debate about Scotland’s place, or otherwise, in the UK. But the IFS’s assertions will place yet  more pressure on Ed Miliband to rule out a deal with the SNP after the General Election.

Already taunted by accusations from the Conservatives that he is in the pocket of Alex Salmond, Miliband will need to think carefully about the impression it would give to voters nationwide if he appeared to be preparing to do a deal with the SNP whose plans would, on the IFS’s assertions, increase debt.

But then again, if he rules it out, could it close of his only real hope of making it to Downing Street?

It’s a tough shout, but no one ever said it would be easy leading the Labour Party.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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13 Responses to “New figures show Scotland’s finances are worse than the UK’s”

  1. Leon Wolfeson

    Scots lashing out at Labour rather than the Tories in 3,2,1…

  2. CGR

    The Athens of the north. Indeed !!!!

  3. robertcp

    An amazingly silly article. Scotland is part of the UK!

  4. Faerieson

    The presented scenario of, “Scots lashing out at Labour, rather than the Tories,” would be something of a tragedy, if it transpires to be close to reality. I was initially relieved to see the independence vote go against separation, and was apalled at Cameron’s devisive, almost instant, response. But, I can well understand why it might be that they many Scottish people feel that they have been misled or shafted by ‘English’ MPs.

  5. DRbilderburg

    Terrified of a 3rd party no matter which colour
    Britain is a 2 party political system A shouting match peaks every 4-5 years ,and some egos get massaged,, then it’s as you were. They call it a General Election where 2 parties who both serve the same master scare you into voting for either one, who will pretend they are the answer to all your problems, as one party the winning party grinds you face down into the earth. hope is always on the horizon in the shape of the other party, who will also grind you face down into the earth.should they triumph at the end of the 4-5 year cycle The whole show is total fakary. At best a vanity issue But really just a complete farce

  6. Dave Stewart

    But are large number of Scottish people would rather it wasn’t so discussing such things does have merit.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes and no. The longer term problem is the way Cameron’s government have cynically linked things together to kill off change – after all, it’s in the Tories long-term interest to break up the Union, all protests aside.

    Labour haven’t helped too much, I agree. I suggested they introduce a clean bill promising *exactly* what was promised, but that sort of thing is far too direct and effective for Labour these days ><

  8. robertcp

    I just think that the issue has been settled for several years at least.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    So you support voting reform, for the record?

  10. DRbilderburg

    Yes on that i agree with you You. Also were bang on in your comment about energy companies

  11. Leon Wolfeson


    Support for voting reform is something which to my mind separates people who are serious about changing the two-party system we have in the UK and people who are posturing but are essentially happy at the end of the day with the status quo.

  12. DRbilderburg

    Whoever wins the coming election will do so with around 35% of the vote, and that only includes those that chose to vote ,which leaves 65% of those that voted unrepresented.
    Then you’ve got what ,another 40% of people that didn’t vote at all FPTP it’s a farce

  13. Scottish Scientist

    If Scotland had real full fiscal autonomy with deficit spending powers then there would be no need to raise taxes or cut spending to eliminate the budget deficit.

    Then Scotland wouldn’t have to balance its books! There would be no need for austerity, mini or max!

    The UK doesn’t balance its books now. Why should Scotland be expected to balance our books with full fiscal autonomy? We shouldn’t have to!

    The UK runs a budget deficit. So could Scotland.

    All Scotland needs is deficit spending powers, the ability to spend more than we collect in tax. Simple.

    But even though it is simple, it doesn’t seem to be understood or being talked about by the SNP on TV.

    And you know, that’s a pity because it is supposed to be THEIR policy and here I am working my fingers to the bone trying to explain how to get THEIR policy to work!

    Meanwhile all we hear from the SNP on TV is how small amounts of money like 0.5% extra on the UK budget will be enough to break Westminster’s ‘cosy consensus’ on austerity. NO IT WON’T!

    We need lots more money than that, paid for by deficit spending. OK?

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