I SEE there is a proposal, from Common Weal, that Scotland should set up a statistics agency to provide more accurate figures on Scotland’s accounts (Scottish statistics body could end the data drought, The National, February 13).

It is argued that, to better manage our economy, we need to have a better handle on what is really happening within Scotland. The GERS figures that we have at the moment are largely based on a proportion of UK figures and back-of-a-fag-packet estimations and have been used as a political football. Prior to the 2014 referendum they showed Scotland in surplus, and since then in deficit. This was put down to the supposed “collapse” of the oil price but is more likely to be the cost of Westminster’s mismanagement of the UK’s national debt.

Today Brent Crude is trading around $60 a barrel and has just fallen from a recent average of around $70 a barrel. Over recent years when the oil price was lower the oil companies made strenuous efforts to reduce their costs; I understand that the cost of extraction for BP is now around $15 a barrel or maybe a little less. In 2016 the UK Government paid the oil companies £396 million rather than collecting any tax from them. In the same year Norway collected several billion. We have a Petroleum Revenue Tax that used to tax oil production but it is currently set a zero. Are we deliberately refusing to collect the best revenues we can from the oil companies, cutting off our nose to spite our face, so that we can continue to gloat about the deficit in Scotland’s finances?

We live in times of fiscal catastrophe where hospitals, particularly in England, have people stacked in corridors awaiting attention; our local councils are unable to cope with the demands put upon them with the resources they are given from Westminster’s settlement, yet we do not take advantage of a bounty on our doorsteps. Let us back this proposal from Common Weal and seek the real fiscal balance in our finances using this fact-based statistics-gathering agency, and put aside the nonsense that is GERS.

DS Blackwood

THE need for an independent Scottish Statistics Agency is so blindingly obvious that I am utterly bemused why it has not long since been set up. After a decade or more of SNP government it beggars belief that such an essential tool for the economic management of Scotland has not been established. So cut the cackle and get on with this vital task! I have grown old waiting for this initiative.

It is long past time for the benighted and bedraggled GERS reports to be dumped in the dustbin of history. The Scottish Government must be able to present the truth about Scotland’s status as a wealthy nation. No excuses are acceptable.

Peter Craigie

VERY briefly, I would like to amplify the information contained in my letter published on Saturday.

The letter informing MSPs about the opportunity of reading the documents prepared by the British government was apparently dated February 7 and was received by MSPs on the following day. The invitation was valid only for that day and the next. Even assuming that the “secure site” is in Edinburgh, it is unlikely that many MSPs would have been able to take advantage of this invitation, given no prior notice. Even if they had been able to spare some time, they would probably not have been able to read the papers thoroughly.

This is would appear to be sheer duplicity on the part of Westminster and Whitehall, allowing them to claim that MSPs were given the opportunity to read the papers while in practice there was little chance that many would be able to do so. Or possibly it is just another example of the “Mundell Muddle”. Either way, Scotland is once again not being treated as the “equal partner” that it was said to be in 2014.

Brian Patton
Foulden, Berwickshire

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Greg Moodie’s cartoon showing the deviousness of the ‘Feartie’ Party (They Seek Them Here, The National, February 12). I feel it is worth examining the underlying origins of their actions which, even now, they are honing. It started with David “Feartie” Cameron being parachuted into meetings in Scotland, being chauffeured in his private vehicle to a meeting of allies and acolytes, throwing off his jacket, delivering an “up and at ‘em” speech prior to scampering to his vehicle and hence to his aircraft.

Mrs May tried to enhance the approach with the “sermon in the woods” at Crathes (reporters in the kitchen and no internet signal) but cleverly avoiding questioning and the hoi polloi.

Since then Governor General Mundell and Colonel Davidson have tried perfecting the system by being unavailable at strategic times. We know the Colonel is in charge of a policy-free programme and may not have time to remove the flour from her hands to make a meaningful comment on anything other than oven temperatures. I also suspect that Mundell is usually not allowed to see daylight until his controllers have ingrained in him the “quotes of the day” which he will repeat ad nauseam and with increasing volume no matter what the question.

However, today I have learned that the “Fearties” have created a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick to keep Fluffy safe – send him to Hong Kong when it is approaching Chinese New Year, when the Chinese basically close down for anything up to two weeks. Gary Robertson won’t be able to find and interview him and he won’t have anyone to talk to and make a slip up! A genius plan!

Colin R Mowat