I WAS expecting to have to spend hours pouring over this year’s GERS data. I did not need to. Table 1 told me most of what anyone needs to know.

It shows the net fiscal balances of Scotland and the UK as a whole since 1999.

As GERS defines it, Scotland’s deficit stands at £12.6 billion – with the UK’s at £23.5bn.

I have plotted this data (see graph below) from 2002, before which date it is very distorted by the impact of the UK as a whole being in surplus.

I used the extended time series data in the supporting files that the GERS website provides. I have simply compared the two figures for the net fiscal balance for Scotland, one of which includes North Sea revenues while the other does not, with the net fiscal balance for the UK as a whole (including Scotland) for each year.

I’ll be candid: this data makes not one iota of sense. For the record, this is the proportion of the population of the UK as a whole living in Scotland according to official estimates:

What GERS is asking us to believe is that with 8.2% of the UK population, Scotland created between 54% and 60% of the UK deficit last year, depending on the basis used. And my answer to that suggestion is very simple: no it did not. How do I know that?

Because Scotland would not have chosen to spend some of the cost charged to it by the UK Government. The obvious example is the nuclear deterrent, but there are ample others.

It’s also because the GERS methodology is wrong when comparing income and expenditure, as I have already noted many times, including at Holyrood. The data compares income IN Scotland with spending FOR Scotland. That is not comparing like for like and guarantees a bigger deficit than actually arises.

But, most of all, I know this because this data ignores three issues. The first is that there is a massive bias in financial services in the UK that the Tax Justice Network has recently pointed out. This means that large amounts of value are extracted from Scotland and recorded in London, where the tax is paid on it. Scotland subsidises the south-east of England as a result.

Secondly, there is massive wealth inequality in the UK, and both represent this looting of the rest of the UK by the financial services industry in the south-east of England. The income earned on the resulting disparities is again recorded mainly in south-east England.

And thirdly, to suggest – as the GERS notes suggest – that profits are appropriately allocated to Scotland on a case-by-case basis is just nonsense. I have worked on issues of profit allocation between countries for years and developed a method of doing so that is called country-by-country reporting to address this issue. It is now used around the world, but there is no data in Scotland to appraise it. To then suggest that profits, and so corporation tax, are correctly apportioned is nonsense.

The National:

Richard Murphy’s graph compares Scotland’s net fiscal balance with that of the UK excluding North Sea oil (in blue) and including North Sea oil (in red)

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This data is, then, not just wrong. It is absurdly wrong. From the methodology to the lack of appropriate data, to the inherent biases and the failure to correct for obviously identifiable factors, the result is intended to produce an outcome.

In a leaked memo, the Secretary of State for Scotland under whom GERS was introduced, Ian Lang, wrote “I judge that [GERS] is just what is needed at present in our campaign to maintain the initiative and undermine the other parties. This initiative could score against all of them.”

I acknowledge that things have moved on since the 1990s, of course. But let’s still be clear what GERS is about. Its aim, as is the aim of almost all UK Government-produced data, is to prove that a financial services elite produces most of the value in the UK and that, as such, the interests of those with wealth, based in the City of London and largely living in the south-east of England, must have priority in all matters, including tax, fiscal policy, regulation and more besides. The rest of the country must behave as supplicants to ask for their mercy and goodwill for the handouts that they are offered. And GERS in this form really suits their purposes very well.

But does it suit Scotland’s purposes? No, not at all.

And is it any real reflection of the true situation that Scotland would face if tax was paid where value really arises? Again, I suggest not. But the question of where value arises is a question never asked within the UK, although it is on the international tax agenda.

It should be. Until it is, GERS remains what I have long described it as, which is CRAp – a Completely Rubbish Approximation of the truth.

GERS unquestioningly takes data at face value and regurgitates it.

We need something a lot better than that.