The case for Scottish independence was strengthened today after new figures released showed that Scotland was in fiscal surplus for the fourth consecutive year. This was compared to a UK-wide deficit over the same period.
The latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2008-09 includes a share of the UK Government's Financial Sector Interventions to support the banking sector.
The figures show that Scotland generated £1.3 billion more last year than was spent; in contrast, the UK ran a budget deficit of £48.9 billion. Even when long term capital and infrastructure investments were factored in Scotland was still showing a far superior performance than the UK showing a 2.6% deficit against the UK’s 6.7%.
GERS also shows Scotland in a stronger fiscal position than the average of the major developed economies.
The cumulative value of Scotland's current budget surplus over the four year period now stands at some £3.5 billion. Over this same period, the UK built up a deficit of £72.3 billion.
Welcoming the report, Finance Secretary John Swinney said:
"This is an extremely positive report - demonstrating beyond any doubt that Scotland is in a far stronger financial position than the UK as a whole, as well as the OECD average.
"In 2008-09, Scotland generated a current budget surplus of £1.3 billion, or 0.9 per cent of GDP, compared to a deficit for the UK of £48.9 billion, or 3.4 per cent of GDP.
"This is the fourth year in a row to record a Scottish current budget surplus - even as the UK moved into recession - and the cumulative value of Scotland's surplus since 2005-06 now stands at some £3.5 billion, compared to a UK deficit over the same period of £72.3 billion.
"These figures reinforce the case for Scotland determining its own tax and spending decisions, and managing other key economic levers, with the powers of financial responsibility and independence. That will enable us to take the decisions in Scotland needed to grow the economy, because growth is the key to moving out of the financial difficulties we face.
"As we saw in yesterday's Budget, we are left picking up the pieces of the financial mismanagement of the last Westminster Government, and the risk to recovery posed by the new UK administration.
"Yet in 2008-09, even taking into account a share of the UK's bank bail out, Scotland's own current budget balance was very substantially in credit, while the UK as a whole was in substantial deficit.
"Financial responsibility and independence provide the platform to build long-term economic prosperity and social justice in Scotland."
The figures will be welcome news to advocates of Scottish independence and those organisations who are calling for full fiscal autonomy.
The fact that Scotland is now regularly generating more money for the UK exchequer than we receive back in the form of a grant will be a blow for the Labour party in Scotland who have consistently argued that Scotland could not survive without Westminster ‘subsidies’.
Labour finance spokesman Andy Kerr said: "These figures show that a separate (sic) Scotland would be dangerously dependent on volatile oil prices.”
Mr Kerr also commented on the Scottish deficit of 2.6% when capital projects were factored in but failed to comment on the UK deficit of 6.7% when factoring in the same projects.
In a bizarre editorial decision, the BBC Scotland online news editor has decided that the top political story is one based around criticism of a loan to the company involved in the Homecoming Clan Gathering.
The online item contains the following potentially misleading sentences:
"The Gathering event was the showpiece of the Scottish Year of Homecoming.
It is thought to have boosted the economy by £10m but it lost more than £500,000."
The Gathering did indeed generate £10 million for the local economy. The company behind the event made a loss.
Once again BBC Scotland have carefully manipulated a story and placed it in a position of undeserving prominence. Attacks on The Homecoming have been relentless since the SNP came to office in 2007. Is criticism of £670,500 in public grants and loans really more important than the news that Scotland is in fiscal surplus to the tune of £ billions?
We at Newsnet Scotland think not. Time will tell if the item is given the same prominence on the BBC’s main news ‘Reporting Scotland’.