Richard Murphy crows that he “work” on educating the Scottish people about GERS works. Or, as we should put it that propaganda shouted loud enough and often enough works.
His proof is this survey for the Spectator:
Murphy’s contention is that Scotland does not run a deficit larger than the rest of the UK because the statistics are malformed. On a bad day he says deliberately so to prove that Scotland is too poor to go it alone.
What this chart actually shows is that Murphy’s shouting about this issue is believed by enough people in Scotland. That does not make Murphy’s contentions true of course.
I think we can safely conclude that the argument on GERS has been won: it is what I have always described it as, which is CRAp, or a completely rubbish approximation to the truth.
Well, no, what has been shown is that shout loud enough and long enough and enough people will believe you. This is not the same as a definition of the truth.
As to what the truth is.
Scotland is not a notably richer country than England. In fact it is a little bit poorer. Tax rates do differ but not by much, only at those margins allowed to the Scottish Parliament. Revenues per head are those, from that Scottish population, a little lower than they are from the English. This might not be true if we pull out London and parts of the SE but with them it is so.
Public spending per head in Scotland is higher than it is in England. Therefore whatever the gap is between spending and tax receipts it is higher in Scotland than it is in England. It’s possible to do an awful lot of smoke blowing over this but that is what the situation is.
The end result of this is not that Scotland is too poor to go it alone. It is though true that there will have to be some fiscal rejigging if it is to do so. Various possibilities are there. They could have the Bawbie and simply print more to cover the gap a la MMT. They probably should have the Bawbie whether they go MMT or not in fact. They could cut government spending – no, don’t laugh! – to meet revenue. They could cut regulation and interference thereby boosting the growth rate – as the Scandis do – and bridge the gap that way.
What happens about Scotland having a larger deficit is up to Scotland. It’s most certainly not a bar on independence. But that the larger deficit is there is true, how ever much people believe Richard Murphy’s shouting.