IN his otherwise spot-on letter regarding the latest GERS figures (We all know the GERS figures are ‘adjusted’, The National, August 22), Cllr Kenny MacLaren states: “Let’s remember the UK Government won’t subsidise a spare room for those on benefits – do you really think they would subsidise a whole country?”

At the risk of being accused of pedantry, I have to take issue with his phraseology here: the so-called “spare-room subsidy” was pure Tory rhetoric designed to imply that those on out-of-work benefits were living cushy lives funded by taxpayers and to justify a particularly cruel cut to the social safety net. The rhetoric and the policy it paved the way for have together been so harmful, hence my need to engage in what some might see as semantic nit-picking.

Housing benefit legislation and calculations in fact never mentioned a “spare-room subsidy” – because it never existed! Social landlords offered and allocated housing on the basis of the types and sizes of properties they had available following the decimation of their stock due to the right-to-buy policy. Because there weren’t a lot of one-bedroom properties, single people and couples with no children tended to be offered two-bedroom properties.

The lack of available housing also meant that when the size of people’s households reduced, including due to bereavement, there often weren’t any smaller properties for them to move to. The coalition government at the time knew all this but proceeded to disregard all the objections and concerns raised and introduced the retrospectively applied “under-occupation penalty”, aka the bedroom tax regardless.

Thanks to the Scottish Government, social housing tenants in Scotland are not impacted by the under-occupation penalty, but the amount spent paying for this and towards mitigating some of the other callous cuts meted out by Westminster will presumably be included in the public expenditure total noted in the GERS figures.
Mo Maclean

FROM your article (GERS figures make the case for Scottish independence stronger, August 22), it appears that almost anything can be attributed to the Scottish deficit by the UK Government – and there is the bonus that some of this can boost the contributions made by financial institutions and companies headquartered in the City.

For example, Scotland has a large number of PFI hospitals schools and other public projects that are paid for by health boards, local authorities and other bodies which all contribute to Scotland’s deficit.

If we follow these payments we will find that many of them resurface as income for financial institutions in the City who own these contracts, helping to generate a surplus for the London area.

Add in Scotland’s compulsory contributions to other UK projects such as Trident renewal, HS2, London CrossRail, a massive network of embassies, fighting unnecessary wars and maintaining the UK’s position and influence throughout the world where financial benefits to Scotland are negligible; there appears to be no limits to what the UK Government can attribute to Scotland’s share of UK expenditure.

The deficit will be even larger next year as Scotland will have to find an extra £4 billion to pay its share of the UK’s £39bn severance payment to the EU, plus a share of the guaranteed payments to farmers in lieu of EU subsidies.

A few more years of this type of accountancy and Scotland’s deficit could be far greater than that of the UK, proving beyond doubt that Scotland is too small, too poor and, if Scots believe people like Alister Jack and Richard Leonard, definitely far to stupid to consider independence.
John Jamieson
South Queensferry

COMMENTING on the latest GERS figures, Richard MurphyCraig Dalziell and Lesley Riddoch all chose to focus on the claim that Scotland’s notional deficit of £12.6bn is about half of the UK’s deficit of £23.5bn, concluding on this basis that GERS is flawed.

The National:
Were Lesley Riddoch and other National columnists’ views on GERS wide of the mark?

GERS may well be flawed, but this is not the reason – it simply makes no sense whatsoever to express Scotland’s deficit as a fraction of the UK’s, because some parts of the UK (London and the South East) contribute surpluses. Just think: how would that calculation work if the UK as a whole broke even but Scotland registered even a small deficit, so that Scotland’s “share” was actually infinite?

The problem here lies not with GERS but with the interpretation of it by your contributors in terms of deficit share. Far more relevant is to focus on how an economy dominated exclusively by London and South East England is holding Scotland back from achieving its full potential.
Paddy Farrington

WHAT do the Gers figures actually do? Surely all they suggest is that Scotland, with more natural resources per head than any other country, is trapped in a UK economic nightmare. Or do they just tell us that 300 years of the Union has reduced Scotland to a cap-in-hand beggar nation?

In fact, they are an insult. Scotland – with 9% of the UK’s population – they suggest is responsible for over 50% of the UK’s debt. Which intelligent person could believe this rubbish?

Lots of wealth generated in Scotland is in fact registered in London, so it appears on its balance sheet. And Scotland is then apportioned a share of lots of “national” expenditure which has nothing whatever to do with us – like funding Trident, building aircraft carriers, paying for the House of Lords, invading the Middle East, paying billions annually for the interest on the UK’s national debt and so much more.

There is no point in debating these figures. They are irrelevant. They bear no relationship whatsoever to any economic situation an independent Scotland would work with.
David McEwan Hill
Sandbank, Argyll