16 October 2012
When is a deficit a surplus? When it's a "relative surplus" of course.
In the wake of the Edinburgh Agreement yesterday, there's been much #indyref chatter about Scotland's relative fiscal strength based on the annual GERS figures.
Some say there's a deficit, some say a surplus.
The answer is both, sort of.
Alex Salmond frequently quotes Scotland's 9.6% contribution to the UK tax take (including North Sea revenues), compared to the 9.3% of UK spending that goes to Scotland.
That 9.6% of taxes raised £53.1 billion in 2010/11, according to GERS.
But the 9.3% of UK public expenditure going to Scotland was a far higher sum, £63.8bn.
In other words, Scotland had a deficit of £10.7bn last year, even accounting for a geographic share of North Sea revenue.
Yes, 9.6% is bigger than 9.3%, but it's 9.6% of a different, and smaller, number than the 9.3% refers to.