ONCE again we have arrived at the annual GERS “lucky dip” with all the nonsense which goes with it.

When will we ever learn? Why do we allow ourselves to fall into the same trap each year?

Perhaps it is because we Scots are a canny folk and we respect figures and statistics, so if someone wants to lead us into a trap, statistics might be a very useful bait.

We know that figures are objective and that statistics give us the bare, honest facts, so we feel more comfortable with statistical evidence. Well of course, this is true, statistics do not lie and are entirely objective so we are wise to have that approach to them. However, statistics only respond objectively and true to the specific question they are addressing.

Now the GERS figures are no different in this regard; they answer objectively and truthfully the questions they are asked. The problem is that the questions they respond to have nothing to do with Scotland’s real income and expenditure, or Scotland’s balance of trade, yet many who claim to interpret these figures claim that they do. Now that is where the problem arises. These figures are interpreted by people, and people frequently lie and misrepresent.

Now there should be no mystery about how the GERS figures can be distorted to give the impression the Scotland is “responsible” for most of the UK deficit. Richard Murphy has once again taken these interpretations of GERS apart and exposed there nakedness and lack of substance. So nobody in Scotland should still be “taken in” by the annual flood of new interpretations “arising” from GERS, but they still are. Why is that?

Well, unfortunately the reason why the totally discredited GERS figure are still being used against the idea of Scottish independence is because leading figures in the SNP, such as Keith Brown and Andrew Wilson, continue to give credence to the misrepresentations of these figures.

Even if the GERS figures were based on real Scottish figures and were entirely accurate, they would help us only to understand some aspects of Scotland’s economic activity in the past. What they could not do would be to predict Scotland’s income in the future.

National income is not a fixed sum, it is in fact an extremely variable one, and one of the major factors creating big variations in national income is the size and nature of investment in the previous year.

Now in an economy such as Scotland’s, with huge amounts of wasted labour and natural resources, any investment programme which addressed this issue would have an immediate and significant effect on national income the following year.

So when the Growth Commission or Keith Brown use the GERS figures to predict Scotland’s future national income they are falling headfirst into the trap set for them by the Tories and actually giving credence to the Tory distortions.

There is a simple, and quite obvious way to avoid this nonsense each year, and the SNP conference I believe has already shown the way. The Scottish Government must set up its own independent statistics unit, which should collate all real Scottish statistics.

Such a unit will take time to get established and will take a wee while to get access to all the statistical sources it will need, but it will soon be able to start providing real objective figures which can be available to many Scots, who will be able to give a more rational assessment of Scotland’s economic performance. Keith Brown should be spending his time on this issue, so that the Scottish Government has real reliable figures to work with rather than peddling this GERS rubbish.

Andy Anderson