Sunday, 25 October 2015

Wings and His Wee Blue Book of Errors

I resent having to write this post, but someone's got to do it.

When people attempt to dismiss this blog,  I consistently offer the same response: if there's a factual error I'll correct it.  Others repeat that promise on my behalf. My sometimes trenchant views on those who attempt to spread falsehoods via social media mean lots of people are highly motivated to trawl through here and find mistakes.

For the record - after over 100 posts and well over 600,000 views - there have been two so far.
  • I presented an historical oil tax income graph which was not adjusted for inflation. I accepted that was misleading so I updated it within 24 hours (and still show the original beside it as a mea culpa)
  • I once wrote that the S in GERS stood for Statistics instead of Scotland. Schoolboy error; I left the original mistake with a highlighted correction 
That's the beauty of having a blog - we'll all stumble from time-to-time but it's the work of seconds to make a correction.  If you seek credibility, if you're genuinely concerned about ensuring wide dissemination of accurate information, you simply must correct any errors you become aware of.

Which brings me to (fake5 Reverend) Stuart Campbell, custodian of Wings Over Scotland and proud author of the Wee Blue Book.

I and many others have frequently highlighted errors in his Wee Blue Book (and his blog more widely) and he really doesn't like it. He never posts corrections, instead he simply feeds his followers by personally abusing those of us who point out his many mistakes. Given how much he clearly hates me, you might think it's surprising that he's never identified any errors in my blogs1. Go figure.

But we do know he's well aware of some of the many errors he's made (see Wings Over Scotland: an Apology or the Addenda to Sowing the Seeds).

All of which makes this recent Tweet of his either a remarkable demonstration of self-delusion or just simple trolling

I genuinely worry that by engaging with Stu on stuff like this I'm just bullying. The problem is his social media reach is huge (far more people read Wings than will ever venture to this blog) and he directs so much abuse at me personally that I feel I should set the record straight. By collating this little highlights reel I hope to avoid ever having to engage with the question of Stu's credibility again.


For context, it's important to understand the timeline with respect to the availability of the Scottish Government's Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures.
  • March 2013: GERS 2011-12 published
  • November 2013:  Scottish Government White Paper published
  • March 2014:  GERS 2012-13 published (including a £1.2bn correction2 to 2011-12 figures)
  • August 2014: Wings publishes his Wee Blue Book
  • March 2015:  GERS 2013-14 published
So the 2012-13 GERS figures (including corrected 2012 figures) had been out for 5 months when Wings first published his wee Blue Book. Since then we have had another year's worth of data published. For simplicity let's refer to 2011-12 GERS as "2012 figures" and so on.

Wings is strangely wedded to the outdated and incorrect 2012 figures. There are plenty of unforgivable things about the White Paper (not least the oil forecasts used) but, given when it was written,  it's not unreasonable that they fixated on what have turned out to be materially incorrect 2012 figures. Wings, on the other hand, has no excuse for not using 2013 figures (or for quoting the out-of-date 2012 figures when he chooses to quote those). He would only not use the correct and up-to-date figures if he's either hopelessly incompetent or willingly deceitful. You decide.

To understand the GERS figures and how they've changed over time you really only need to understand two graphs, so bear with me.

Firstly here's a simple graph of the most recent GERS figures expressed in terms of per capita deficit difference between between Scotland and the rest of the UK. These figures come straight from the most recent available GERS3 and are of course the "we keep our oil" version. Where the bar is above the axis Scotland is a net contributor to (if you like is "subsidising") the rest of the UK; of course when the bar is below the line we are a net beneficiary. I've marked the 5-year period that was quoted when the White Paper was written (and you can start to see why the fixation with 2011-12 figures).

Secondly here's a graph that explains the dynamics underlying this deficit difference. Again we're looking at per capita differences between Scotland and rUK: The black line is Total Tax Revenues (including oil & gas), the green line is Total Onshore Tax Revenue (i.e. excluding oil & gas) and the red line is Total Public Expenditure.

These two graphs are related of course: the blue deficit-difference bar-chart is simply a plot of the gap between the Total Revenue (black line) and the Public Expenditure (red line) shown on this second graph. The importance of oil revenues and the scale of the onshore (i.e. without oil) deficit gap is clear.

So now the context is set, let's see if the Wee Blue Book has any "factual inaccuracies" in it. It's worth noting that I've only bothered to look at the economics section here.

1.  Wee Blue Book, page 10.
"the UK government and the No campaign desperately want you to believe that Scotland would be poorer as an independent country, and that it would therefore have to raise taxes and/or cut public spending to protect services.  But that simply isn’t true."
Nobody with any credibility disputes this point anymore and frankly nobody with any credibility disputed it prior to the indyref (because by then the nature of the oil decline was clear, even if the scale of the decline caught almost everybody out). If you doubt this point, here's the words of the SNP MP and economist George Kerevan as quoted in The National in March 2015 *

* < correction>
As the link shows it was actually May 2015 - I can't see it makes a material difference but somebody highlighted this as an error so I'm happy to correct it (it's good to see people are checking and this is the best they can find)
 < correction ends>
"We all know that in present UK economic circumstances a fiscally autonomous Scotland would face a significant budget deficit. For Scotland to accept fiscal autonomy without inbuilt UK-wide fiscal balancing would be tantamount to economic suicide"
But let's be fair to Stu - whilst he's been shown to be spectacularly wrong, was he factually incorrect at the time? Well he justifies his statement with a link to an FT article which was more than a year out of date when the WBB was published and uses 2012 figures. Give that the 2013 figures had long since been available and the certainty with which Stu stated "But that simply isn't true" I'm afraid the answer is pretty clear.

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

2.  Wee Blue Book, page 10.
"Scotland subsidises the UK by billions of pounds every year, and has done for many decades"
A simple glance at the blue deficit-difference bar chart above tells you this is wrong; the only time we can be said to be subsidising the rest of the UK is when that bar is above the axis. So how did he attempt to justify this ridiculous statement? He cites his own blog quoting a government statement made in 1997 that looked at the cumulative picture since 1979 (when the oil boom started). As my graph below shows, you can see by inspection that statement was indeed true fifteen years ago

Even in 1997 it wasn't true that we'd "subsidised" the UK "every year" and it's certainly not been true since then. It's telling that when he's been challenged about this recently Stu deflects by pointing to a cumulative analysis that hypothesises an oil fund existed in 1979 - avoiding the "every year" element of his statement and the fact that he cites the 1997 data as his source in the Wee Blue Book. This alternative analysis is only of any relevance to the debate if there's an option to vote for a time-machine to allow us to rerun the 1980's.

At a very generous pinch you might let him away with saying "if things had been different in the 1980's and we'd created an oil fund then you could argue that Scotland would have been a cumulative net contributor to the UK since then".

But does Scotland subsidise the rest of the UK by billions of pounds ever year? Definitely not.

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

3. Wee Blue Book, page 12.
"But the fundamental economic facts making Scotland stronger than the UK are the same now as they’ve been for the last 40 years"
Stu chooses his long-term figures to always start in 1979 because that's when oil started -  it's fundamental to his attempt to make an economic case. Even without the benefit of hindsight, you just have to glance at the long-term oil graph above to know this statement is simply wrong.

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

4.  Wee Blue Book, page 12.
"The simple fact is that by any reasonable calculation, and even BEFORE the effect of different policies (such as scrapping Trident) is taken into account, Scotland will have more money as an independent country than it does as part of the UK."
Well - like vandalism in a multi-storey car park - this is wrong on so many levels.

"By any reasonable calculation" - This blog is one of many sources of reasonable calculations that disprove this asserted "simple fact".

"Before the effect of differing policies" - He's not even giving himself the out of saying you can't accept GERS because everything will change anyway.

"Will have more money as an independent country than it does as part of the UK" - only if (as we'll see Stu does) you take the snap-shot of 2012 and ignore the most recent figures, dismiss the decline in oil and assume there will be no costs-of-separation or any negative economic implications of separating from our biggest trading partner and facing an uncertain currency future.

But more simply than that: you just had to look at the GERS figures that were published 5 months before Stu wrote this to know it's clearly wrong.

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate (Spectacularly Wrong)

5. Wee Blue Book page 13.
"On average, UK spending is around £1,200 higher per person in Scotland than in the UK as a whole. But on average Scotland sends £1,700 more per person to the UK in taxes"
He quotes the FT (those 2012 figures again) and provides a link to the Scottish Government's White Paper to support the £1,700 per head figure. That figure does appear in the White Paper; its for the single year 2011-12 and comes straight from GERS (GERS had been updated and corrected 5 month's before Stu was writing this, so that single-year figure had already been revised down to £1,515 by then).

So definitely not an average and definitely not correct at the time of publishing even for a single year. I summed this up in a comment I have publicly addressed to Stu (and he admits to having read):
If you wanted to use the most recent figure (as you seemed to be trying to do in your original statement) you should really have said "In the most recent year for which data is available Scotland sent around £800 more per person to the UK in taxes".  I recognise that this is significantly less than the higher expenditure we receive; it's an unfortunate truth that doesn't really suit your central thesis.
So if you want to use an average figure to match the figure you (correctly4) use when you say "UK spending is around £1,200 higher per person in Scotland than in the UK as a whole" you should really say "on average Scotland sends around £1,200 more per person to the UK in taxes".  The next sentence would I guess then read "We actually get back 100% of the extra money we send to London".
Stu has since tried desperately (via Twitter) to find an alternative definition for the £1,700 figure so that he can defend it as an average. He faces two problems:
  1. He provided a link to the source so we know where he got this incorrect figure from (to then incorrectly use)
  2. If he's comparing to the £1,200 spend per capita figure (as he is) then he can't choose a different denominator (e.g. by saying he means "every tax-payer" not every "man, woman and child") because then the figures would obviously not be comparable

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate (a Big Fat Lie)

6.  Wee Blue Book page 13.
"we have to pay it even if we didn’t need or want the things it was spent on - like nuclear weapons, the London Olympics and the HS2 railway from London to Birmingham, all of which Scotland pays billions of pounds towards because Westminster claims they’re for the benefit of the whole country"
The latest GERS report is very clear on these two points;
  • Page 77: Consequently, as discussed in previous editions of GERS, all capital expenditure associated with the Olympics has been assigned to the rest of the UK, primarily London and surrounding area, on the basis that Scotland will not receive a lasting benefit from the infrastructure and regeneration associated with the games.
  • Page 77: Within GERS, the expenditure has been apportioned to Scotland in line with the regional breakdown of the benefits of High Speed 2 reported within The Economic Case for HS2, published by the Department for Transport. This assigns Scotland 2% of the total expenditure. 
So per GERS we don't pay for the London Olympics and we only pay for the apportioned value of HS2 that the Scottish Government (not Westminster) decide

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

7.  Wee Blue Book page 14.
"the No campaign likes to make out that Scotland would be the only country in the world with a deficit"
A ridiculous assertion with no citation

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

8.  Wee Blue Book page 14.
"Scotland’s deficit is in fact considerably smaller than the UK’s " 
He goes on to quote the 2011-12 GERS figure again. You know the drill by now: the 2012-13 figures had been available for 5 months and showed that statement to be simply false (blue bar below the axis on the chart above)

Conclusion: Factually Inaccurate

9. Wee Blue Book page 15.
For most of the 1990s the price of oil was around $20 a barrel, but it’s been consistently over $100 for the last two years. The price of increasingly-rare commodities on which the world depends tends to go up, not down.
He then quotes a couple of selectively bullish forecasts. Surely I don't have to show a graph of the oil price to make my point here?

Conclusion: Turned out to be Wrong

10.  Wee Blue Book pp 29-30.
Professor Sir Donald Mackay [...] said that Westminster’s figures were underestimating the true value of oil by £8 billion a year. “Mackay points to official forecasts by Oil & Gas UK which suggest an independent Scotland’s revenues in 2017-19 would be almost £32bn, double the £15.8bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility.” - “He says there is no hole in the Scottish government’s oil predictions, as Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, has claimed [..] That’s plenty of time to use the money wisely for Scotland’s long-term future
Well it's true that Pro Mackay said that, so Stu gets top marks for finding the most bat-shit crazy oil forecast I've seen yet.  Read that quote carefully: 2017-19 is a two year period and the Prof suggests £32bn over those two years - an average of £16bn a year.

You might, like like I did, be thinking those OBR numbers look quite big. To ensure we're not taking advantage of hindsight (Stu publishing in August 2014, the Prof was quoted in July 2014) I've checked old contemporaneous OBR forecasts.

The most recent OBR figures when Stu was publishing would have been the March 2014 OBR report. You can check for yourself here (see memo page 104) - they were forecasting £7.9bn for 2017-19 or £3.5bn per year; less than half the figure that Prof Mackay was quoting as the OBR's forecast. I've actually checked the March 2013 OBR report as well (see page 102) which shows a 2017-18 forecast of £4.3bn and doesn't include a 2018-19 figure. Wherever that £15.8bn OBR number comes from, it must have been a very out-of-date figure.

Of course we all know that the OBR have subsequently slashed their forecasts - they're now suggesting an average of  c.£0.1bn over the next 20 years. Remember: Stu quoted the Prof  as a credible source saying c.£16.0bn a year.

So Stu quoted a lone-wolf outlier and happily took their incredibly bullish forecast at face value. He also repeated what was clearly an incorrect representation of the OBR forecast that existed at that time. Stu was either trying to fool his readers or just showed appallingly bad judgement.

Conclusion: Very Wrong Indeed


So that's ten howlers.  I've only covered about 5 pages of the Wee Blue Book and I'm sure if I looked further I'd find more, but I'm stopping there. Surely the case against the Wee Blue Book is now conclusively made?

Remember: the Wee Blue Book was distributed by Yes stalls all over the country and has often been quoted by sitting SNP MSPs. They really do insult he electorate by promoting this bilge.

Of course I know this blog won't make any difference, I know he won't correct any of these errors, I know he will simply respond with ad hominem attacks because that's all he's got.

Given I know there will now be more incoming, a parting few thoughts on Stu and his Wings-men's tirades against me:

  • If I'm a "nutter", if I'm "mad mental", if I'm "not smart enough to piss liquid" ... how come it's so easy for me to find clear mistakes in his Wee Blue Book, yet he has still not found one material error in my blog?
  • If I'm "just a guy who runs pet-shop websites*", isn't it slightly embarrassing that I'm able to dismantle his work in my spare time?
  • Talking of spare time: for me this is a side-show, but for Stu? For Stu churning out this error-riddled and deeply misleading Yes propaganda is a full-time crowd-sourced lifestyle choice. If he's going to take money from well-meaning but gullible punters he really should at least make an effort to get a few of his facts right. Don't you think?
* Not that it really matters but:  it's actually two online business turning over £20m, based in Scotland, employing about 100 people. I'm also a founding shareholder and Non-exec Director of another even larger Scottish business, as well as being a board-level advisor and non-exec for other businesses. I actually think the quality of my analysis and the robustness of my logic is what I should be judged on rather than my cv - but if Stu wants to get into a pissing contest about business or economic credibility, I might humbly suggest that's yet another battle he'll lose.

Now: I'm off to enjoy what's left of my Sunday.

To read about the errors in the Wee Blue Book "Pensions" section see this guest post > Wee Blue Book of Errors Part II: Pensions



The standard line Stu and his Wings-men offer is something like: "Hague assumes everything in the future will be the same as the past, whereas the whole point of independence is to change it. Also you can't base anything on GERS".

Firstly: no I absolutely don't assume that. In fact what I make very clear is that the reverse is the case - the nature of the onshore (i.e. without oil) deficit gap is such that it would be unfeasible for us to manage a sustainable economy without some combination of public spending cuts, tax rises and/or super-normal economic growth.  What I do is scale how much would have to change and show that some combination of a 16% rise in taxes and/or a 12% cut in Public spending would be needed.  If that tax increase is to be created through growth, I observe that 16% growth over and above the rest of the UK would take many decades even on the most optimistic assumptions. The White Paper itself uses an illustration that shows a 3.8% superior growth over a 30 year period might be realistic. We'd need 16% (and have to fund the gap in the meantime).

Secondly: to argue you can't base anything on GERS is to suggest the White Paper was based on a flawed premise, in fact the entire Yes camp's economic case was based on a flawed premise. It also means we can't say we are (actually "were") the 14th richest nation in the world based on GDP, we can't say we contributed massively to the UK during the 1980's (as we did, because of oil) - all we can say is we'd be leaping into a void of the unknown. As I've covered in depth elsewhere on this blog, most attempts to dismiss GERS are based on a misguided understanding of what they represent


As detailed in Annex C of the 2012-13 GERS report


2013-14 GERS: I have applied a GDP deflator so that historic numbers are stated in £ 2014 and I have calculated rUK = UK minus Scotland


Although only in nominal terms and if you compare to the UK including Scotland instead of "rest of UK" - in which case the figure is £1,450 per person over the last 15 years


Some have questioned my justification for referring to Stuart Campbell as a "fake" Reverend. Frankly it's hardly the substantive issue here, but for the record: Reverend (capital R) is "a title prefixed to the name of a member of the clergy" (Chambers Dictionary & others). Stuart has been famously evasive about which clergy he is a member of - if he isn't a "fake" reverend he could clear this up in an instant by simply telling us. I've searched; strangely for such a prolific blogger, he doesn't seem to have let this simple piece of information into the public domain.

It has been suggested that Stuart Campbell purchased his title online from the Universal Life Church (as many gamers did in the early 2000s) - other online ordination websites are available. To take the ULC's own wording on the nature of their ordination process;
It is an unfortunate fact of the ordination process we use – where anyone can get ordained online for free within a matter of minutes – that people who are trying to be funny (or “prove” that we are a scam) exploit the weaknesses of our system and create accounts for things that are clearly not real people. Ordaining your vacuum cleaner doesn’t prove that we are a scam in that it does not impact the legality of the ordinations of real people who use them to perform genuine, legally-recognized ceremonies (like weddings). Ordaining “Adolf Hitler” (which our ordination database reveals that people have done over two dozen times) who lives on “666 Hell Lane” proves nothing other than the fact that you have too much time on your hands and a peculiar sense of humor
If Stuart would like to clear up which clergy he is a member of, I will happily retract my use of the term "fake Reverend" and apologise if it turns out his title is more meaningful than one I could use for my dog if I could be bothered to go through a free online form-filling exercise.


Stuart 64W said...

Slam, dunk! Mr Hague

It'll be interesting to see what the 'Rev' comes up with as a counter argument to this.

I suspect it will be more selective distortions, and personal attacks.

As per usual.

Keep up the good work!

theambler said...

Large tax rises just to maintain current public services, or large cuts to public expenditure would result in a serious recession (as current critics of austerity correctly state). We would also have the currency issue, and the cost of setting up a full government machine.

If we could find some benefactor willing to lend us relatively massive sums of money at keen interest rates that would be a solution - but that wouldn't happen because of all the above. However, even assuming we could borrow the money at the same interest rate as the current UK government we would be paying more taxes on interest payments for the extra borrowing to cover the deficit gap. The 16% estimate is an underestimate, and that is making ludicrously favourable assumptions.

Sam Duncan said...

I had run-ins with Campbell years ago, when he was still just a (not particularly) humble videogames journalist. Not that I'm any kind of big-shot myself; I was just one of many on a Usenet newsgroup he decided to troll.

I actually knew of Wings long before I realised that its curator was that Stuart Campbell. In fact, I can't be certain that I didn't make the connection until after the referendum. But when I did, after picking myself off the floor, it all began to make sense. The man's a shameless self-promoter, has always had an unshakeable sense of his own importance and rightness, and is utterly impervious to argument or reason. Now I come to think of it, it's surprising he didn't take up politics earlier, and the Nats fit him like a glove.

He can write, and he knows his games, but the general view of him among gamers is... well, I'll assume this is a family blog and just say, “unfavourable”. Although the usual word begins with “A”.

Paul Robson said...

In a word, no.

Anyone dense enough to read W*nks over Scotland seriously (e.g. believes it rather than for a laugh or to demolish it) isn't going to take any notice of what you say ; they want to be told they are right, and they don't care about factual accuracy, honesty, or anything like that.

So in a word W*nks is giving its readers and financial supporters what they want ; rather like buying Der Sturmer (but less accurate), it exists to prop up ignorant prejudices and egos, not to provide accurate information.

You wrote at one point something like "Do I have to put a graph of current oil prices" ; well, yes you probably do, as the Nats now seem to be claiming their economic forecasts are independent of oil.

Edwin Moore said...

Like a Katyusha launcher at Stalingrad. Splendid Kevin

Anonymous said...

Political debate in Scotland has left the real world in which basic truths are acknowledged and form the common ground of discourse. Instead we have a nationalist movement which builds its case on invented facts and manufactured grievance against anything emanating from the UK. The BBC and wider media which ought to hold the SNP and its camp-followers to account often bend over backwards to avoid offending them. The nationalist game-plan is to somehow to bring another 10% of the electorate over to their cause by fair means or foul and Kevin plays an indispensable role in highlighting a lot of the nonsense being peddled as part of that strategy.

sm753 said...

Mr Hague

This is wonderful stuff, I am so glad you are picking up the online cudgels - I had a go myself a few years ago.

I find it especially amusing that the fake "Rev" feels he has scope to slag you off for your business activities - this being a failed / sacked videogames journalist living alone (apart from some pet rats) in a rented flat in Bath, dependent for income on donations from his gullible acolytes. I keep wondering whether his income has been properly declared to HMRC, too....

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to see any counters to the points regarding non-oil-based economic projections, if you have them? I switched from being quite viciously anti-independence all my life to the nationalist side a couple of years ago, but am open to facts, as that's what changed my mind in the first place.

With regard to the subsidisation question - it's a little on the abstract side (and pretty irrelevant in this particular discussion, given that we're talking about the future), but surely you can agree that it is the oil money we sent down which provided the underpinning for the trading boom in the 80s and 90s? Given that, I would suggest that we are still subsidising the UK, because our position in the global trading markets was bought by oil revenue.

It doesn't make any real world difference, of course - we are where we are, and we're not going to get any retroactive recompense for our contribution, even though an oil fund - even one started now - could help Aberdeen deal with the transition and insulate against the fluctuating market. It's just an interesting point.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a waste of time that was for you. The best you can do is highlight that his details were 'factually inaccurate' what? big deal.
The stuff being churned out under project fear and the reactionary press during the referendum was also factually inaccurate and often just utter nonsense.
I think you need to get out more.

Brian MacIver said...

Given that your GERS(3) Figures are correct,
and not based on estimates and allocated costs,
then the conclusion can only be:

That Westminster has mis-handled the Scottish Economy since 2000.

I note all comments are positive,
that lacks credibility somewhat,
and suggests Information Abuse by editing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post and most that of Brian MacIver. Em, Brian, 'Westminster' (ie, the hated English) has mis-handled the Scottish economy by subsidising the hell out of it ever since The Equivalent in 1707? Plus, domestic economic policy - including inward investment - has been in the full control of your beloved SNP since 2007. Why have they not performed better. WHY? I demand answers, Brian! It couldn't be that your gang are a bit, well, useless?

theambler said...


It is not possible to draw such a conclusion from the GERS figures. The figures simply show that Scotland has usually received more from central government than it has paid to central government. It may, or may not, be the case that Westminster has mishandled the Scottish economy but the GERS figures cannot show it one way or another.

kailyard rules said...

There are many pro Independence who just no longer give a damn about fiscal graphs and graphic doom laden forecasts, who comprehend that Scotland has been manipulated and lied to so many times before (not only the McCrone Report etc.)and on up to the mendacious Vow. They are firmly set on self determination and Independence for Scotland.

To sm753.@15:09
your disdain for those living in rented flats and earning an honest living says all we need to know about you and your grassy mindset.

Ian THOMPSON said...

Hi Kevin, just a thanks for your intellectual blog and your opposition to these deceitful people that produce misinformation. I enjoy all your writings and I repost some of your material hope you don't mind:- More SNP misrepresentation and deceit from Joan McAlpine and her attempt to stir up her moronic SNP supporters
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine stirred up a tax row with comments in the Record about the whiskey industry.
I'm glad to say a blogger Kevin Haque was on the ball to correct her deceit
Kevin says...
I read with interest the article attributed to MSP Joan McAlpine referring to £4billion of whisky exports and concluding " not a single penny of the tax on that will come to Scotland ".
let's be absolutely clear there is no export tax on whisky and of course duty charged in international markets shouldn't come to Scotland - any more than duty charged in Scotland on French wine shouldn't go to France. So, the only " tax on that whisky " she can mean is corporation and employment taxes generated by the exporters.
The figures used by all sides throughout the independence referendum and ongoing fiscal autonomy debate are government expenditure & revenue Scotland figures. These make allowances to ensure all of these taxes " come to Scotland "- and use considerably more optimistic assumptions than HMRC when it comes to estimating how corporation tax would fall were we separate.
So, when there is talk of an £8billion deficit gap between Scotland and the rest of the U.K., that is after we've received every single penny of tax on that whisky.
In fact, the £1400 per person higher expenditure on public services we receive in Scotland means not only do we " receive every penny " of those taxes but far more.
It is hugely disappointing that we have elected representatives who are either unaware of these basic facts or are willing to attempt to deceive voters with such provocative statements.
Kevin Hague
Excellent!!! Kevin, thanks

Anonymous said...

Kailyard Rules, please tell us what part of The Vow hasn't been delivered?

I don't think sm753 has any disdain for anyone living in rented flats. He was simply making a point that The Rev will write any old nonsense just to have his bills paid for him. Also, do you still think he is 'earning an honest living' after reading the article above??

Anonymous said...

What the hell has Project Fear got to do with it? If you've found a long list of factually inaccurate statements from the reactionary press then go and devote some of your own time to highlighting them and stop trying to denigrate someone else's hard work just because it doesn't support your side of the argument.

Aldus Grumblebore said...

An excellent and informative post - please do keep it up Mr Hague.

Such stats can only steer the debate so far, although they do make a compelling case that Scotland has not been perpetually subsidising rUK as the SNP likes to claim:

Ultimately Scotland can either:

* Be part of a larger, more diverse and less risk-prone economy;
* receiving a guaranteed additional share of public funding through the Barnett formula year in, year out;
* benefitting from a shared currency, common regulation and truly united market with its largest trade partner;
* benefitting from the economies of scale that the broader union can achieve in providing public services;
* contributing to a larger, more influential voice on the world stage;
* whilst retaining a proud national identity of its own;
* with power devolved to manage those issues best addressed at a local level;
* yet still retaining that shared kinship and culture with the island of Great Britain that comes from thousands of years of common history and hundreds of thousands of people with families on both sides of the border.


* Gamble that oil revenue in the medium term will be sufficient to maintain Scotland’s economy in at least the level it is at now, whilst mitigating those additional risks and costs;
* alienating friends, family and neighbours not only in rUK but in the hefty chunk of Scotland who are just as passionately opposed to independence;
* hoping that rUK doesn’t respond the way most humans do in the face of rejection;
* whilst ultimately allowing their ‘independent voice’ to be subsumed within the EU, assuming that Scotland goes on to become part of the Eurozone.

‘Independence’ (the term ‘divorce’ is more accurate) is clearly a matter of faith rather than reason for the SNP. It’s not about what is best for the Scottish people in the long term; it’s about tribal identity and an irrational grudge towards the (in the eyes of some) larger tribe living next door.

To which I would make 2 points:

* Most people in rUK don’t get out of bed every morning thinking, “How can I screw over the Scots today.” Mostly they get out of bed sharing the same thoughts, hopes and concerns of people in Scotland.

* Such narrow nationalistic feelings as the SNP’s have never, never, served humanity well in the past.

coldwaterjohn said...

Excellent demolition of the work of a serial liar. Sadly given the intellectual capacity of the followers of that particular cesspool of deceit, all of this will have passed overhead at 30,000 feet and climbing. There will not be a glimmer of doubt amongst the lot of them, sadly. Trying to convert the afflicted is time wasted. It is more important to bring those who voted SNP in the past because they were fed up with the corruption in the Labour party in Scotland to realize that there are alternatives to voting SNP, and that if they were No voters, the only Group which remains pro-Unionist is the group led by Ruth Davidson.

kailyard rules said...

To Anonymous at 6:14

In regard to the mendacious Vow. Even Gordon Brown (remember him?) has recently said it is a stitch-up.

Your apology for sm753 is a "protest too much". His/her sneering remarks are tainted with condescension.

Yes,I do believe "the Rev" makes an honest living. Somewhat more honest than the propaganda scribblers being paid at various MSM excuses for "news" papers.

Anonymous said...'re not actually saying anything. That's what it's all about though isn't it? Who needs logic and facts when you can talk vaguely of 'manipulation' and 'news'papers? Was it the same 'news'papers that came up with the 'conservative estimate' of $118 a barrel? Now THAT'S what you call a lie! I can fully understand someone supporting separatism for emotional or identity reasons, if that's what floats your boat (a tad retrogressive like) but - why do you cultists have to LIE and pile on the victimhood all the time? As for the commenter talking of the tragedy of Scotland not getting 'retroactive recompense' for 'subsidising the UK' (which Kev has comprehensively shown is rubbish anyway) - do you realise how petty you sound? Wales and England have called...they want their coal money back... (Well done Kev, thank Christ someone is telling the truth and showing up the populist crap of Wings and his ilk for what it is).

FF said...

Brian MacIver said...

Given that your GERS(3) Figures are correct, and not based on estimates and allocated costs, then the conclusion can only be:

That Westminster has mis-handled the Scottish Economy since 2000.

Why is that the conclusion? Oil revenue is what it is. If the difference between expenditure and revenue is so high in Scotland, and if we are to say Westminster has mis-handled anything, it can only be that it allocated over-generous public spending to Scotland and should have kept things more austere. Then Scotland could make use of the money saved as it saw fit - eg to create an Oil Fund. That's not the argument the SNP are making with their anti-austerity rhetoric, and it has nothing to do with the economy.

FF said...

Brian MacIver said...

Given that your GERS(3) Figures are correct, and not based on estimates and allocated costs, then the conclusion can only be:

That Westminster has mis-handled the Scottish Economy since 2000.

Why is that the conclusion? Oil revenue is what it is. If the difference between expenditure and revenue is so high in Scotland, and if we are to say Westminster has mis-handled anything, it can only be that it allocated over-generous public spending to Scotland and should have kept things more austere. Then Scotland could make use of the money saved as it saw fit - eg to create an Oil Fund. That's not the argument the SNP are making with their anti-austerity rhetoric, and it has nothing to do with the economy.

Max Bennie said...

"The best you can do is highlight that his details were 'factually inaccurate' what? big deal."

So basically what you're saying is that you're perfectly happy to believe factually incorrect nonsense, even when it's shown to be such by people who know how things work. Congratulations.

Max Bennie said...

"In regard to the mendacious Vow. Even Gordon Brown (remember him?) has recently said it is a stitch-up."

But which bit hasn't been delivered? That was the question you were asked. It's strange that the Yes Men claim the "Vow" won the referendum even though they seem to be the only people who actually took it seriously.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work Kevin, as always.

Have you thought of offering to have a televised debate (as in a camera set up in the corner of a room and recorded, with the video then uploaded to Youtube) with the supposed Rev Stuart Campbell of the Wings Over Scotland Website?

If he truly believes what he writes and spreads arouund the Internet and he isn't just a fully financed (by the SNP membership, including the SNP hierarchy through anonymous donations) political lobbyist and propagandist, then he should surely be willing to debate the facts with you face to face, whereby a refusal for him to do so, would show to his followers, that he doesn’t believe a single word of his own rhetoric either.

Please continue the good work Kevin, you and your blog are a beacon of sanity in a sea of nationalist spin, deflection and a whole lot worse.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin, good stuff as usual. On Point 2 of your 10, I'm assuming that graph title Revenues means Taxable Revenues, ie net of the (ever-rising) costs of extraction etc? The world price of oil is not the only determining factor of how much tax income flows to (whichever) government from the North Sea, so it helps to be clear. Also to be speculated upon is whether in the event of independence the oil companies - who already feel they are massively over-taxed by the UK - would be confident they had the new Scottish government over an economic barrel (so to speak) and demand a far less onerous level of tax. Profitability is already so low that the threat of packing up and moving out could be made in all seriousness. So possibly even less cause for optimism from that direction...

Kevin Hague said...

The figure on the graph is actual tax revenue (UK total) - agree entirely it's about so much more than price (I get irritated by those who seem to think if market price was $100 bbl all would be fine!)

Anonymous said...

All is clear. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Cheers Kev. Tiresome work pointing out what most intelligent people fully understand.

Have done a bit of macro myself and find it teeth grindingly annoying the way nationalists misunderstand the very basics of economics (even if they disagree with the economic policy - Keynes or Hayek or Friedman or Mill fair enough etc) and refuse to accept there are certain constraints and parameters within a liberal system. Basic things like 'natural trading partners' i.e) the closest and cheapest market place for export, or the difference between monetary policy and fiscal policy or that size of country is less relevant than location and trading patterns/ balance (Denmark sits at the confluence of Sweden/ South East England/ Northern Germany and has arguably the most balanced trading pattern in the EU surrounded by other very healthy economies - Scotland is completely peripheral and dependent on the UK for trade etc therefore if any lessons are to be learnt it has to be from countries with similar economic and geographic factors. Ireland, Portugal, Finland etc)

If they could engage with some reality you could then at least have a civilised debate, but they don't and won't. Absurd.

Anonymous said...

Have some feelings for Jim Sillars whose "words of wisdom" and name is still being displayed with such an effort of Political and Financial Fiction

I read somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 copies of the WBB were printed...I wonder what the equivalent number of paper recycling bins is ?

Unknown said...

I do like Kevin's articles. They're concise and to the point.

My only issue is the calling of Campbell's diatribe as "Factually inaccurate". That's a euphemism surely? Call it what it is. A deliberate damn lie vomited by and only believed by those Nationalist Separatist's who have gargled SNP Kool-Aid.

Steven UK said...

Excellent work Mr Hague.

As per usual,the pro-indy supporters have left their absurd comments and therein lies the problem.

They are not interested in facts because the facts blow them out the water.They want independence at all costs and to hell with the consequences.,which is an absolute horrifying viewpoint to hold.

They can keep ignoring the facts and excellent blogs like yours Kevin all they want,but much like the referendum result,the majority will see sense and the penny will drop,leaving only the zealots to fight their losing battle.

Paul Robson said...

"Most people in rUK don’t get out of bed every morning thinking, “How can I screw over the Scots today.” Mostly they get out of bed sharing the same thoughts, hopes and concerns of people in Scotland."

Well, they didn't. More and more English people are moving towards something like "oh, let them go then" ; they are getting fed up with the pathetic whining of the Nationalists.

Unfortunately even though Yes represents less than half of the population it gets vastly disproportionate coverage as "the voice of Scotland".

Anonymous said...

I'm English (sorry) though have always referred to myself as British. But have ALWAYS (from a border county) felt bemused by the amount of hatred felt for us by Scots. A long time ago I concluded (even - well especially after - being around close Scottish friends) that a lot of Scots will only be happy when we hate them as much as they hate us. The attitude here (i.e. England) during and since referendum (to my dismay - I was petrified my country would be ripped in half) was very much 'Good luck to 'em if that's what they want.' I feel that now the biggest danger that the Nationalists, with their endless grievances that bear no resemblance to reality, will bore the rest of the UK into asking Scotland to leave. Still. 'Good luck to 'em if that's what they want.'

David GREEN said...

I may have missed it, but you seem to have shown extraordinary forbearance to Stuart Campbell, given that this particular muppet can't even file an electoral return. No wonder he has difficulty with anything economically more challenging. And as for Joan McAlpine, yet another economic muppet. As far as I can see, the whole SNP is full of economic muppets, from top to bottom. However, I also agree with your last anonymous contributor. The danger to Scotland does come, in the first instance, from those people who think that independence is the starting point for any improvement. However, the real danger, long term, is the increasing indifference of the English to Scottish independence. The English had to be arm-twisted in 1707 to allow the Union, and increasingly the evidence is that nothing much has changed. Their collective judgement, made at the last election, that Labour allied to the SNP would be a dangerous option, still stands, despite Conservative stumbling. Sturgeon's attitude to Labour would have made a constructive coalition all but impossible. There is already a hint that the Conservatives actually don't care if Scotland separates. The fiscal savings from stopping the Barnett payout would go a long way to addressing the tax credit issue in rUK, and the temptation of a near-permanent Conservative majority is enough to make the Conservatives salivate. Osborne's focus on a Northern powerhouse seems to stop well short of the Scottish border, defining a new economic border for rUK. I, for one, would regret the break-up, because it would represent an entirely gratuitous destruction of something of value. But if Sturgeon and her gang want to destroy the economic wealth of Scotland, who in England really cares?

rocoham said...

David, you might add to your analysis that as indifference grows in England to the prospect of Scotland choosing independence, so the potential negotiating clout of the UK government grows and that of the Scottish government shrinks. There is little advantage to rUK being reasonable in negotiations, let alone generous, if its electorate either no longer cares if Scotland goes, or worse, would prefer any settlement to send out a loud "well if that's the way you want it, then f**k you" goodbye message.

The negotiating position of the SNP was always going to be weak anyway, it seemed to me, simply because the unqualified terms of the referendum and their stupidly utopian White Paper gave them no wriggle-room. Basically, if they ever eventually get a Yes vote they will be forced to go for independence on whatever terms they can get from all other parties (UK, EU, NATO etc), and these will undoubtedly fall well short of the unconditional "promises" on which out as the case for independence was sold (cue centuries' more grievance). There has never been an SNP qualifying statement to the effect that IF we can get this sort of settlement THEN independence is feasible, and if not it's not. Nothing either about bringing a set of negotiated conditions back to the Scottish people for a final decision. That's not how it was sold; it was a one-shot deal, all certainty, milk and honey for everyone, and even now the only pre-condition to another referendum seems to be the "will of the Scottish people", not anything to do with economic conditions or terms. So the SNP are putting themselves over a barrel. They would come to the table with no fall-back position; they simply have to deliver independence, and so must accept virtually any deal that gives it, because their bridges will be well and truly burned. No conditions available to them, and no going back.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I was thinking.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this blog and the various comments for a while. I must also add my thanks to Kevin and his fellow contributors for the admirably clear explanations (I do sometimes wonder about the reading abilities of some people who seem to think hand waving can contradict the obvious (to me anyway) stated facts).

Reading what rocoham has added above, and my own gut feel, I suspect the SNP really have missed their best chance of squeezing out a good deal from the rUK - simply by the fact that I don’t think the rUK expected it to be so close last year and hence had not really got their act together. I doubt the rUK politicians will be caught quite so flat footed next time - and while they don’t really have an interest in screwing an iScotland to the wall economically, the political reality is that they also have a need to be shown to stand up for the rUK interests.

Interesting times coming I think - especially with this loose canon of the EU referendum...

rocoham said...

Ah yes, the EU referendum. As someone who strongly believes we should stay in the EU (for all its manifest shortcomings) I am struck by the similarity in argument between the Brexit "manifesto" and the SNP's case for independence (and indeed, in the arguments against). In both, an external villain is to blame for all the ills of the nation, for Westminster now read Brussels. In both only the faults of the current arrangements are ever mentioned, and the degree of wild, unfounded certainty about what will replace it is unbounded. "We will/can enter into a Free Trade Agreement with Europe..." is stated as if it were a given. [But says who, exactly, given that it takes more than one party to make an agreement?] "Europe needs us more than we need them..." [erm...]. "It's in Europe's best interests to...". Familiar? It all sounds just like the SNP's arguments about currency, EU entry, the economy - it just WILL happen the way we want it and be better, believe us. The only difference is that "because Scotland" is now replaced with "because the UK". The SNP white paper was an irresponsible disgrace, the case being made for leaving the EU even more so. Both bring to mind the fable of the cock crowing on the dunghill.

theambler said...

rocaham, I have noticed the same thing. Phrases like 'Sovereignty!', 'Freedom!', and 'Self Determination!' seem to go direct to the lizard brain. Glorious theory is compared to disappointing practical reality - and glorious theory comes out on top every time!

David GREEN said...

My thanks to Rocoham and the other last few contributors. I agree that the SNP may have passed the high point of its negotiating clout. From the odd comment made recently by Swinney, the Scottish Government is clearly involved in severe arm-wrestling with the UK Treasury over the adjustments to the Barnett formula to be made as a consequence of devolution. I assume this means the UK Treasury wants to abate the Barnett formula more aggressively than Mr Swinney would like. Indeed, it could be argued that it should be a simple binary decision. If the Scottish Government really wants something close to independence, then maybe it should lose most of the cross-subsidy from rUK. However, from rUK point-of-view, it would much more fun to reduce the Barnett subvention by an amount that severely increases Swinney's fiscal headaches, without precipitating yet further a bolt for the door. We are already seeing the SNP's fiscal plans on tax credits being outflanked by Scottish Labour's typical Labour stance on tax and spend. Sturgeon and Sweeney know that they can't re-instate all the tax credits abolished by Osborne, no matter what they finally look like. No wonder the SNP wants to block the tax credit problem at source, i.e. Westminster, but they are unable to do so. The SNP has already been told that a higher taxation regime than rUK will result in loss of some of the 160,000 tax payers who contribute 50% of Scottish income tax revenue, itself an outcome of being a small tax jurisdiction close to a much larger one. And Sturgeon still has a very embittered Salmond to contend with. I suspect that Salmond also knows that the independence issue will gradually leach Yes-support as unemployment starts to bite, and it becomes progressively clearer that the Scottish standard of living is falling below rUK. Finally, a possibility that no-one has seriously considered. The Scottish Government can no more bind its successors than the UK Parliament can theirs. Since negotiations following a successful Yes vote would take several years, and potentially cover more than one Scottish General Election, it is entirely possible that party positions will emerge that offer to set aside any final separation, if the outcomes are economically disastrous. I am not sure that the SNP is not over-stretched for the long haul. Do the accidental SNP victors at Westminster really want to carry on for a decade or two, or do they want to get on with their lives in Scotland after what I think they assumed would be a short, sharp campaign that would have produced independence and allowed them all to abandon Westminster with honour?

Anonymous said...

Obviously the state wants to retain Scotland, Fact and figures cannot be trusted when you consider no one really knows what being taken because whoever takes these figures skews them to suit the rhetoric...And they work for the state, end of

In the scunner Browns unelected term he gifts the banks with the publics money and hes a freemason with banking tiies welcoming people from the french craft when they visited Roslyn chapel while he was chancellor of the exchequer . But dont tell anyone its a secret!

This blog isn't about the truth its about obfuscation, like every other aspect of the establishment it is full of lies, hyperbole and half truth's

Matt Geldart said...

Following on from the Fake Ref bit. I have checked with both ULC monastery and ULC seminary, They have not record of a Stuart Campbell.