Friday, 16 April 2021

Analysing Sturgeon's STV Interview

I've just caught up with ITV News’s Peter Smith's interview with Nicola Sturgeon. It's worth watching the full 15 minutes here - it's a masterclass in deflection, evasion and misdirection.

The first question is about whether Scots would be as well vaccinated today if she succeeded in her manifesto pledge to take Scotland "out of the UK and into the EU". Sturgeon's response partially addresses the "into the EU" part of the question, pointing out that nothing about EU membership would have stopped the UK pursuing the procurement strategy it did. But she doesn't address why no other EU country has done so well, presumably because she'd have to congratulate the UK government on their procurement strategy - and that's never going to happen. 

When pressed to acknowledge how well the UK government had done on vaccination procurement it's notable that her favourite term for them ("Westminster") is replaced by her preferred term for the wider collective us ("all four nations in the UK"). This may seem a trivial observation, but the language used matters in framing the debate and she's a master of it. She will never directly acknowledge an achievement of "the UK" - and of course when she then talks of the NHS doing a sterling job it is qualified as "the NHS in Scotland".

It's notable that she singularly fails to address the "out of the UK" part of the question - the following discussion on economics perhaps explains why.

Things get really interesting when she's asked about her huge spending committments: "You can afford to commit to spending more than £17 billion while Scotland is in the UK [...] if Scotland were independent over the next five years, can you guarantee that every penny of that would still be spent?"

She doesn't miss a beat, responding without hesitation: "Yes - and let me tell you how it will be funded ..." before going on to give her rehearsed answer for how it would be afforded while Scotland is in the UK.  She answers the question she had expected to be asked, not the one she was actually asked.

The interviewer presses her on the scale of deficit an independent Scotland would start with on day one and the fact that her sterlingisation policy means no central bank (which means no ability to print money and higher borowing costs, necessitating greated fiscal prudence) .

Her response is a carefully rehearsed rhetorical sleight of hand which we've seen road-tested by Andrew Wilson and it really needs to be called out:

"If you look at taxes that people in Scotland pay, they fund all of the services like NHS and education they also fund the services that are currently reserved like pensions and social security ... most countries right now run a deficit [...]"

Did you spot it? Hats off to them - it's a good trick and you really have to be paying attention to notice how it's done.

"they also fund the services that are currently reserved like pensions and social security"

As this blog has pointed out before, taxes raised in Scotland categorically do not fund all services that that are currently reserved, but they do (give or take) fund reserved spending on pensions and social security.

So if one was prepared for the answer she gave (and journalists really should be) then the follow up would be:

Hold on - you say taxes paid by people in Scotland fund the services that are currently reserved like pensions and social security ... but isn't the truth that those are the only reserved services that taxes raised in Scotland would cover? What about international development aid, defence costs and debt interest payments; or indeed what about the other £7 billion of reserved expenditure that takes place in Scotland today?
That £7 billion supports over 15,000 DWP and HMRC employees based in Scotland, includes £900m on Network Rail in Scotland, £700m of Renewable Obligation Certificates supporting Scotland's renewables sector, over £1billion of research grants and R&D tax credits, 100's of £ millions on nuclear decommissioning costs in Scotland, BBC spending in Scotland, support for Scottish ferries and Creative & Historic Scotland, Maritime and Coastguard costs, Border Force, Broadband Voucher Schemes and so much more that is currently reserved spending in Scotland - and that is before considering the £2.5 billion of MoD spending in Scotland that directly funds over 13,000 military and civilan jobs here.

Too long? OK then:

But even before considering over £7 billion of overseas development aid, defence and debt interest costs that an independent Scotland's taxes would also have to fund, you've ignored another £7 billion of  reserved spending that taxes raised in Scotland don't cover. That's over 19,000 civil service jobs in Scotland, it's the maintenance and improvement of Scotland's rail infrastructure, it's support for Scotland's renewables industry and environmental initiatives, it's R&D tax credits for businesses, it's critical research and innovation investment, it's support for our creative industries - it's investment in Scotland's economy worth over £1,300 pa. for every man, woman and child in Scotland. Where will that money come from if you separate from the UK?

Still too long? OK then:

Why do you only mention reserved spending on pensions and benefits but ignore other reserved spending that directly funds over 33,000 jobs in Scotland1, that is spent maintaining and improving Scotland's rail infrastructure, supports Scotland's renewables industry and environmental initiatives, funds R&D tax credits for businesses and critical research and innovation investment, supports our ferries and creative industries and pays for nuclear decommissioning? Even before considering overseas development aid, defence spending and debt interest, that's investment in Scotland's economy worth over £1,300 pa. for every man, woman and child in Scotland that you seem to be ignoring.

The only way out of this for the SNP is to suggest that somehow the scale of the deficit doesn't matter - which is what she basically goes on to attempt:

"most countries right now run a deficit, the UK carries a debt of more than £2 trillion, so it's not unusual for countries to be in a position of debt and deficit ..."

Notice how the scale of the deficit is ignored, as if running a deficit is just a binary consideration. For the avoidance of doubt: "most countries" most certainly do not run a deficit of the scale of that an independent Scotland would start life with, and "most countries" are not trying to launch a new currency or starting from scratch to build credibility on international capital markets. She's just ducked the question (again). 

As an aside: the reference to the UK's debt is a crude attempt at misdirection: Scotland will inherit a share of that debt and if anything recognising the scale of debt we will inherit as a result of the pandemic response merely exacerbates the challenge an independent Scotland would face.

She goes on:

"how you manage that [deficit and debt] is what determines your priorities and what determines the success of your economy.."

Well quite - and she's being asked how she proposes an independent Scotland would manage that. Just when you think she might be about to answer the question, she deflects:

"but the point - you started to ask me about the committments in this manifesto - and I set out for you exactly how they will be funded ..."

But "the point" she's been asked to address is how would those commitments be funded in an independent Scotland - and she has ducked the question (again) by instead answering how they propose those committments would be met while remaining in the UK. She's evading answering the actual question, because she has no answer. 

Rightly pressed on this, she resorts to just kicking the can down the road:

"When we are asking people to vote in an independence referendum, just as we did in 2014, we set all of that out in a prospectus and people will make their judgement - but you know, people are not daft ..."

Well now.

Some of us are indeed "not daft" and we recall what was set out in the prospectus she refers to: oil revenues of £6.8 - £7.9 billion pa2. Since then actual oil revenues have averaged about £0.6 billion pa3. She might as well say "we nearly managed to fool people last time and we're confident we'll find a way to fool them next time - just don't expect any answers from me today."

Still: she's managed to evade the big economic question so she can be content that she's done her job. But she's clearly rattled, as evidenced by the condescending tone she then adopts

"Can I let you into a secret Peter? There are hard times ahead whatever happens right now because we're in a global pandemic [...] now I would rather have a situation where we could deal with that through proper investment, investing in the things that grow our economy rather than another period of austerity ..."

Wouldn't we all?

The problem is she's blatantly failed to address the key question, despite being pressed several times in this interview. How does she propose we avoid another period of (deeper) austerity given her defining policy of separation would mean: the loss of c.£10bn pa of fiscal transfers from the rest of the UK; facing the challenges of creating a new currency (or the fiscal constraints inherent in Sterlingisation); the need to meet the deficit criteria laid out in the EU's fiscal compact (if she's serious about rejoining the EU); weathering the economic costs of border friction (which the LSE has argued would inevitably follow); funding the transition costs of unpicking and rebuilding what is currently deeply integrated machinery of state; coping with the (currency risk related) capital and talent flight that would likely ensue. 

These are questions which she will not answer for the simple reason that she has no answers.

***

The interview moves on to the SNP's failure on managing drug deaths. She's confronted with her admission that "we took our eye off the ball" and asked "where was your eye?". It's a rhetorical question of course, because we all know Sturgeon's eye is always first and foremost on independence - the politics of division will always come before the politics of compassion for the SNP. 

She is pressed not just on drugs deaths but on avoidable care home deaths through the pandemic and the best she can offer is basically "mistakes get made" and "let the people decide". 

Her response to the final question in the interview is revealing. When asked if she would use votes cast for Alex Salmond's Alba party to claim a mandate for a second independence referendum, she refuse to deny that she would.

It seems that if you're a separatist, whether evaluated in economic or moral terms, no price is too great to pay for breaking up the UK.

***

NOTES

1. 20,000 civil service personnel (mainly DWP and HMRC, also Home Office, DfID, OFGEM, CICA, HMCTS, HSE, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, DBEIS, ACAS, Met Office and other) and 13,000 military and civilian personnel directly employed by the MoD:
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/civil-service-statistics-2020
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/location-of-uk-regular-service-and-civilian-personnel-annual-statistics-2019

2. "Scotland's Future" p.75


3. Average North Sea revenues between 2015-16 and 2019-20 were £614m pa (per Scottish Government GERS figures)


 



Monday, 5 April 2021

Mind The Gap: Critiquing the FT's Fiscal Gap Analysis


tl;dr
The FT recently published a figure of £1.8k per person pa. as the tax rises or spending cuts an independent Scotland would need to achieve sustainable deficit levels. By failing to quantify the impact of border friction and Scotland's need to create its own currency, this figure drastically understates the true scale of the longer-term economic challenge an independent Scotland would face - taking into account those factors, a longer-term figure of £4k per person would be more realistic


The Financial Times recently published an analysis ["Independent Scotland would face a large hole in its public finances"] which  summarised the implications of how Scotland's fiscal position has deteriorated since 2014:

"Based on the pro-independence Scottish National party’s previous assumptions, this would mean Scotland needed to raise taxes or cut public spending annually1 by the equivalent of £1,765 per person in the period after exiting the UK so as to narrow the deficit to sustainable levels."

Anybody thinking £1.8k per person appropriately scales the economic challenge represented by separation has failed to realise the significance of that opening caveat: "Based on the pro-independence Scottish National party’s previous assumptions ...". 

The FT's headline figure significantly under-sells the scale of the fiscal challenge separation would cause; that caveat is akin to prefacing an analysis of the economic implications of Brexit by saying "Based on what the Leave campaign wrote on the side of a bus ...".

To help explain why the true challenge is so much greater than this analysis suggests, here's the FT's own summary chart


Let's first look at what has been included before considering the more important issue of what has not been included.

What has been included are "proposed spending cuts" of 1.2% of GDP2. This figure is sourced from the SNP's Sustainable Growth Commission and - having spent more time than is healthy with that report [see Growth Commission Response: A Reality Check] - I am familiar with what lies behind the 1.2% saving and 5.9% "2018 financing gap"3 deficit assumption:


The 1.2% saving assumption is made up of 0.4% on defence spending, 0.4% on debt servicing and 0.8% on "UK Government spending allocated to Scotland", offset by 0.4% from oil revenues being diverted to a proposed "Fund for Future Generations".

The FT rightly notes "Although there were many assumptions made by Wilson that would likely be questioned by the UK government, his report was described as “not implausible” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an influential think-tank". 

As it happens, I am confident that I have carried out deeper analysis on "UK Government spending allocated to Scotland" than the IFS have. On that basis I have no hesitation in asserting that the 0.8% of GDP saving assumption is, in fact, deeply implausible. There are three reasons for this;
  1. For an independent Scotland to make savings versus these reserved cost allocations, we would need to believe that standalone Scottish Treasury, Home Office (including Border Force), Cabinet Office, DCMS, DBEIS and National Crime Agency functions would cost less than 8.2% of the amount the UK currently spends on these departments (i.e. than the population share of these departments' costs allocated to Scotland in GERS). The empirical evidence shows that, far from proportionately costing less, government functions devolved to Holyrood require roughly twice as many civil servants per head of population than when those departments benefit from operating at the scale of the UK4.
  2. The larger part of the SGC's "saving" comes from assuming that £2.4 billion of "spending that is allocated to Scotland but takes place elsewhere" could be "transferred to Scotland " and generate "revenue benefits of £0.6 billion"5 This assumption is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the reserved spending allocations in GERS. I have checked my understanding directly with the Scottish Government economists responsible and am confident that £2.4 billion of transferrable spending simply does not exist6. If £2.4 billion of transferrable spending did exist, the SGC would be able to detail it with reference to reserved expenditure line items in the “Detailed Expenditure Database” which accompanies GERS. They won't, because they can't.
  3. The SGC ignore the fact that GERS allocates to the rest of the UK nearly £200m of Scottish ferries costs, costs associated with Creative/Historic Scotland and nuclear decommissioning costs which take place in Scotland, all of which would be the responsibility of an independent Scotland
  4. Although it's a somewhat theoretical figure at this stage: were Scotland to rejoin the EU, the GERS figures show that Scotland's EU contribution (without the advantage of the UK's abatement) would be £0.7bn

Accepting the SNP's assertion that an independent Scotland would see these net cost savings from UK Government spending allocated to Scotland (outside of defence and debt interest) is akin to accepting the £350m a week written on the side of a bus by the Leave campaign. The true figure in that case was nearer £180m a week (see Thoughts on EU Referendum) - but of course to focus on that figure alone would be to miss the real costs of Brexit.

Similarly if we focus only on the SNP's cost saving assumptions, we miss the true costs of Scexit. So while we could certainly debate the debt interest saving assumptions they make, let's instead consider what is not included in the FT's quantitative analysis.

The FT's assumption of a 9.9% deficit for 2025-26 is broadly in line with IFS projections (graph below) - but these are figures which assume Scotland remains within the UK and the UK single-market


This means that when the FT quantifies the fiscal gap (with spurious precision) at £1,756 per person, they are both taking at face value the SNP's wholly unrealistic "proposed spending cuts" and ignoring the other effects of separation (effects which the article goes on to mention in commentary only).

The article notes "A research paper by the LSE published in February said border problems stemming from Scotland leaving the UK would compound losses from Brexit, and estimated these were likely to result in Scottish incomes being between 6.3 per cent and 8.7 per cent lower in the long term compared with neither event happening."

The full research paper is worth reading [here > Disunited Kingdom? Brexit, trade and Scottish independence]. The figures quoted relate to income per capita and come with these caveats:
  • "These numbers likely underestimate the losses caused by higher trade costs, as we do not account for any dynamic effects of trade on productivity"
  • "Our estimates should be interpreted as the long-run effects of Brexit and independence after the economy has adjusted to changes in trade costs. Brexit studies typically argue that it will take 10-15 years for the full effects to materialise"
This means translating the LSE's assumptions into 2025-26 deficit gap terms is not straight-forward, but longer term this scale of decline in GDP would lead to a c.3.5% increase in the deficit gap (adding a further c.£1,100 to the per-head figure).

At the risk of labouring the point: the fiscal gap the FT have quantified ignores the economic impact of putting a border between Scotland and the rest of the UK. If you can't see how potentialy misleading that is, imagine an analysis of Brexit which both overstated the saving from stopping the UK's EU contribution and ignored the impact of trade friction from leaving the EU single-market and customs union!

The FT article goes on to mention "A further complication around borrowing relates to Scotland’s future currency arrangements". The genius of the SNP's currency plan is that it is so vague as to be impossible to robustly critique, so the FT is reduced to making the following general observation about borrowing: "With persistently high borrowing unlikely to succeed, an independent Scotland would need greatly improved economic performance to avoid tight spending control or higher taxes."

This massively understates the scale of the currency challenge. As explained in this These Islands paper [Choose Your Poison: The SNP's Currency Headache], the SNP's official strategy of indefinite Sterlingisation is unsustainable, meaning a new Scottish currency would have to be launched sooner rather than later. That means that rather than targeting a 3% deficit, a newly independent Scotland trying to support it's own currency and build credibility on the international capital markets would more realistically be striving to deliver a surplus. Indeed the Sustainable Growth Commission itself observed that “Small advanced economies have made fiscal prudence a strategic priority”, none of their chosen comparison "Small Advanced Economies" runs a deficit as large as 3% and in fact most run a surplus. Add to that the fact that the EU's Fiscal Compact specifies a target 0.5% deficit as measured across the cycle, and it's reasonable to assume an independent Scotland would be seeking to eliminate it's fiscal deficit - that would add another £900 to the fiscal gap.

If we add back the rather speculative 1.2% cost-savings, we increase the gap by a further £400 per head. 

Were we to add to that the currency associated risk (near certainty) of capital and talent flight, the scale of the fiscal gap would widen yet further. 

By now the point is hopefully well made: the FT's headline figure of £1.8k per person for the "fiscal gap" independence would create seriously under-states the true longer-term economic cost of Scexit - just adding together our figures here we can easily see a longer-term fiscal gap of £4.2k per head.

*****

Notes

1. Pedantic point: they mean "cut annual public spending" not "cut public spending annually"

2. [7.1% - 5.9%] = 1.2%; [9.9% - 8.7%] = 1.2%

3. The terminology is a little confusing: the "2018 financing gap" refers to the fiscal position that the Growth Commission (published in 2018) assumed an indy Scotland would inherit in 2021

4. See Civil Service Statistic 2020: I have completed detailed department by department analysis, but the simple sense-check here is that, despite the weight of central government departments in Westminster, it is still currently the case that on a per head of population basis there are currently 27% more civil servants employed in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. This is a reflection of the fact that there are more than twice as many civil servants per head of population in devolved functions and only c.7% fewer in reserved functions (primarily because of the large number of DWP and HMRC employees based in Scotland)


5. Sustainable Growth Commission B4.58

6. The Sustainable Growth Commission appear to have assumed that reserved spending (outside of defence, debt interest, accounting adjustments and international affairs) treated in GERS as "Non-Identifiable" can be relocated to Scotland. Drawing on line-level analysis of the GERS “Supplementary data - Detailed Expenditure Database” [summarised here > What's £7 billion between friends], we can see that this is clearly wrong: specific examples of spending (using 2018-19 figures) captured by this definition which clearly cannot be relocated include:

  • Civil Service costs which already take place in Scotland (e.g. DWP & HMRC): £569m
  • Overseas Pensions for ex-pat Scots: £336m
  • EU transactions (cost of EU membership): £270m
  • BBC costs which are already in Scotland: £251m
  • Nuclear decommissioning costs which already take place in Scotland: £222m
  • Other pensions responsibilities: £90m
  • EEA Medical costs: £59m
  • Financial Services Compensation Scheme Costs: £41m
  • Maritime & Coastguard Agency costs: £26m

The above add up to £1.9 billion of costs which could not be relocated to Scotland and so could not deliver a fiscal multiplier effect - the true figure which could in theory be relocated is just £0.5bn (but these costs can't be both saved and transferred, which is what the SGC assume)





Sunday, 31 January 2021

What's £7 billion between friends?

In yesterday's Financial Times, Andrew Wilson (Chair of the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission) made the following sweeping statement:

“Scottish tax revenues cover the equivalent of the entire Scottish government budget plus social security and pensions payments in Scotland. Any deficit reflects UK government programmes which could be replicated or not.” 

That statement is near-enough true1, but it's important to understand what Wilson is casually dismissing with the rhetorical flourish of  "UK government programmes which could be replicated or not."

If you take the time to go through the 515 cost line-items which make up the reserved expenditure allocated to Scotland in GERS2 - and I have - you will find Wilson is glossing over the following c.£4.7 billion of non-defence related reserved spending incurred directly in Scotland2;

  • £918m - Civil service costs relating mainly to the 8,260 DWP and 7,850 HMRC employees who are based in Scotland, as well as other departments where a higher proportion of employees are located in Scotland than charged to Scotland in GERS3
  • £94m - Other civil service costs incurred in Scotland (figure relates only to those located in Scotland4)
  • £884m - Network Rail (maintaining and improving Scotland's rail infrastructure)
  • £726m - Renewable Obligation Certificates (support for Scotland's renewable power industry)
  • £676m - Research Grants awarded to and spent in Scotland as well as the Renewable Heat Incentive5 
  • £529m - R&D tax credits and other tax reliefs6 supporting economic activity in Scotland
  • £273m - Nuclear decommissioning costs in Scotland7
  • £251m - BBC costs (in Scotland)8
  • £125m - Scottish Ferries costs and Creative/Historic Scotland costs recharged to the rest of the UK in GERS9
  • £70m - HMCTS central10, British Transport Police, CICA Agency11
  • £36m - Environment Protection costs12
  • £118m - Other spending in Scotland, including elements of: Maritime and Coastguard Agency, UK Space Agency, Electricity Settlement Company, Broadband Voucher Scheme, CITB/ECITB; Lottery Grants13; Medical Research Council; etc.

In addition to the above non-defence spending in Scotland, roughly £2.5 billion of defence spending takes place in Scotland14.

So that's over £7 billion of existing reserved spending that takes place in Scotland that Wilson suggests "could be replicated or not".

That's over 19,000 civil service jobs in Scotland, it's the maintenance and improvement of Scotland's rail infrastructure, it's support for Scotland's renewables industry and environmental initiatives, it's R&D tax credits for businesses, it's critical research and innovation investment, it's support for our creative industries - it's investment in Scotland's economy worth over £1,300 pa. for every man, woman and child in Scotland.

I will let the reader decide whether Andrew Wilson is being honest with his audience here, or whether he is guilty of a clumsy attempt to mislead with this rhetorical sleight-of-hand.


Addendum 1

It's worth mentioning the other costs not spent in Scotland that Wilson is also suggesting "could be replicated or not";

  • £891m - Overseas Development Assistance (in his Growth Commission report, Wilson commited to maintaining this via an "Annual Solidarity Payment" to rUK)
  • £666m - EU transactions15
  • £134m - Foreign & Commonwealth Office costs (the Growth Commission committed to continuing this level of spend)16
The remaining figure that Wilson is suggesting "could be replicated or not" is Scotland's £4.5 billion population share of the UK's debt interest payments. This population share principle was accepted by the Growth Commission, to also be paid (net of any offsetting net assets adjustment) via the Annual Solidarity Payment.


Addendum 2

For those who are curious, the full analysis which backs up this summary will be published soon on These Islands - the analytical approach taken involves attributing each line-item in the GERS/CRA database to one of the following categories, then triangulating with civil service headcount location data and various departmental annual reports to build up a fully reconciled breakdown of "other" reserved spend (i.e. excluding debt interest and defence), as summarised below;



Addendum 3
Had the Sustainable Growth Commission (or the Common Weal, or Richard Murphy, or Business for Scotland) bothered to do this analysis, they would know only c.£0.5bn of reserved expenditure allocated to Scotland in GERS takes place in the rest of the UK (i.e. could potentially be moved to Scotland, with a commensurate fiscal multiplier benefit). 

Both the Growth Commission and Common Weal assumed that figure was £2.4 billion ... and the Growth Commission actually assumed saving £0.4bn of rUK spending as well as moving £2.4bn of (basically non-existent) rUK spending to Scotland17.

To be fair to Richard Murphy, I guess when he asserted "the sum in question is unlikely to exceed £10 billion" he was right - £0.5bn is indeed less than £10bn.

/ENDS/

___________________

1. According to 2019-20 GERS figures, Scottish tax revenues were £65.9bn, devolved expenditure £48.1bn and reserved "social protection" spending £18.4bn - so in fact a shortfall of £0.6bn. I am sure Wilson is not paying this much attention, but if he is he may have spotted that the Social Protection allocation includes £336m for ex-pat Scots' pensions, so technically that isn't spent in Scotland (although it would still be Scotland's laibility, one presumes), taking the short-fall to just £0.3bn. He may also have excluded the £284m which is Scotland's share of DWP "corporate" and "delivery" costs, but if he has done that is a mistake - because in fact a greater share of that expenditure takes place in Scotland than is allocated to Scotland in GERS (10.6% of DWP employees are located in Scotland, but GERS apportions just 9.1% of their costs to Scotland). 

2. All of the expenditure data in GERS is backed-up by the “Supplementary data - Detailed Expenditure Database” provided by the Scottish Government’s economists  (see "supporting files"). This in turn is based upon HM Treasury’s Country and Regional Analysis (CRA) database. Because GERS is published ahead of the CRA database, full line-by-line detail back-up of the expenditure figures in GERS is only ever available for the prior year. This means that in the most recent 2019-20 GERS report, the line-by-line spending detail only exists for 2018-19 (the 2019-20 data is extrapolated from the 2018-19 data, as explained in the GERS Detailed Expenditure Methodology paper). All of which means we can only create a robust and detailed analytical audit-trail for the 2018-19 figures. This is not a particular problem - the data does not change dramatically year-on-year.

3. See https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/civil-service-statistics-2020: 10.6% of DWP employees and 11.7% of HMRC employees are located in Scotland; the cost figure used here includes HSE, OFGEM, ACAS, DfID  and Office of Rail & Road employee-related costs in Scotland, as these are all departments where a higher proportion of employees are in Scotland than costs allocated to Scotland. For these departments the cost given in GERS is £716m, whereas (allowing for Scottish civil service salaries being 95% of rUK mean salaries) we estimate an additional £202m is actually spent in Scotland.

4. [Employee numbers source as above] - mainly 1,070 Home office employees, also 200 DBEIS, 80 Met Office, etc. The cost allocated to Scotland in GERS for these departments id £322m, significantly higher higher than the £94m we use here as our estimate of "in" spending.

5. Research grants awared to and spent in Scotland (UK Research Council, Technology Strategy Board, EPSRC, STFC, BBSRC, ESRC etc.) and £171m for the Renewable Heat Incentive

6. Includes £41m for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (the levy for which is included in Scotland's tax revenues, so it is consistent to include the cost here)

7. GERS shows £221m as Scotland's population share of UK costs, but the costs incurred in Scotland (per the CRA database) were £273m

8. Compared to the £298m allocated in GERS, this figure of £251m represents the estimated spend in Scotland per the 2019-20 Annual ReportThis figure is made up of £202m "dedicated direct spend in Scotland" and £49m of indirect spend, mainly for distribution costs.

9. An often over-looked fact about GERS is that 29% of ferries costs (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd & Ferry Services Dept) and 57% of Creative Scotland, Historic Scotland and Royal Botanic Garden costs are allocated as costs to the rest of the UK, not Scotland 

10. HM Courts and Tribunal Service spending in Scotland (non-devolved tribunals)

11. Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (compensation claims from people physically or mentally injured because they were victim of a violent crime)

12. Natural Environment Research Council spending, Low-Carbon Initiative (eg, support for offshore windfarms), energy efficiency loans and flood risk management (RE)

13.Lottery income is included in Scotland's tax revenues, so it is consistent to include this cost

14. This compares to £3.3billion which is Scotland's population share of UK spending in GERS, and is based on ratios of personnel costs (6.8% of regular and civilian personnel are based in Scotland) and MOD regional per capita spending with UK industry

15. Obviously this would be contingent on an iScotland gaining entry to the EU. The figure in GERS is £270m, but this includes £397m as a population share of the UK's abatement, which an iScotland would surely not inherit. Even if it did, Scotland would get a contribution share not a population share of the abatement, so the net cost would be £413m

16.  Albeit recognising it would result in Scotland having a diplomatic presence in significantly fewer than the 169 countries where the FCO is present

17. It's easy to prove the Growth Commission figure is bunkum - ask them to identify the £2.4bn with reference to the 515 cost line-items that make up the reserved expenditure figure in the GERS/CRA database - they won't be able to.








































































In yesterday's Financial Times, Andrew Wilson (Chair of the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission) wrote:

"Scottish tax revenues cover the equivalent of the entire Scottish government budget plus social security and pensions payments in Scotland. Any deficit reflects UK government programmes which could be replicated or not”

The ridiculousness of that statment is clear if you take the time to understand what he is dismissing with the phrase “UK government programmes which could be replicated or not”. 

By implication<sup>1</sup> he is referring to all reserved spending other than Social Welfare costs. As it happens I have spent a lot of time going through the 515 cost line-items that make up the reserved spending that is allocated to Scotland in GERS<sup>2</sup>, so I can tell you precisely what he is suggesting "could be replicated or not" by an independent Scotland.


·         £2.x billion of non-defence spending in scotland

o   £899m - Network Rail (Scotland’s rail infrastructure)

o   £726m - Renewable Obligation Certificates[2]

o   £482m - Research Grants (inc MRC, AHC etc etc)

o   £569m - civil service costs (x thousand employees, mainly HMRC and DWP

o   £487m - R&D tax credits and other tax reliefs

o   £251m - BBC

o   £273m - nuclear decommissioning

o   £171m - Renewable Heat Incentive

o   £125m - ferries and Creative/Historic Scotland

o   £70m – HMCTS[3], British Transport Police and CICA[4]

o   £41m - Financial Services Compensation Scheme

o   £36m – Environmental Protection[5]

o   £31m – Lottery grants[6]

o   £26m - Maritime & Coastguard Agency costs

·         £? billion of money spent for Scotland

o   £336m of overseas pensions costs for ex-pat Scots

o   £270m as Scotland’s share of the UK’s EU membership costs

o   £59m of EEA medical costs




1. in 2019/20 Scottish tax revenues were £65.9bn, devolved spending was £48.1bn and reserved socail protection spending was £18.4bn - so in fact a shortfall of £0.6bn

2. 

[1] Financial Times, 30/01/2021

[2] support for Scotland’s renewable pwer industry)

[3] HM Courts & Tribunal service for non-devolved tribunals held in Scotland

[4] Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

[5] Natural Environment Research Council grants, low-carbon initiatives (e.g. offshore windfarms), energy efficiency loans and flood risk management

[6] Lottery income is included in Scotland’s tax revenue figure

Saturday, 5 December 2020

In Other News

I'm conscious that I haven't posted here for a while - so I thought it might be useful to collate here stuff that I've written elsewhere:

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Apples and Pears: GERS

The Scottish Government's economists yesterday published their latest Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures. I'll publish a more complete analysis on this blog soon, but the bottom line is they just confirm what we already know:

  • Mainly because of Scotland's spending per head being 12% higher than the UK average, Scotland has a far higher deficit/GDP than the UK as a whole
  • The scale of Scotland's notional GERS deficit (8.6% of GDP) is such that it would be unsustainable were Scotland to be independent or fiscally autonomous within the EU
  • The net effect of UK-wide pooling and sharing remains a fiscal transfer in Scotland's favour of £10.7bn a year or roughly £2,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland

I wrote a brief summary of what this means for the Daily Record - it's the same old story.

But there is a piece of detail in the GERS report I want to draw attention to, because it illustrates the danger of the £2,000 per head number becoming a totemic figure in debates about Scottish separation. The table I'm referring to is on page 38 and details both Scotland and the UK's net contributions to the EU budget:

Let's get the Leave campaign's "£350m on the side of a bus" lie sorted first: you'll see the last row of the table show's the UK's net contribution to the EU was around £10bn pa, so in fact just under £200m per week. Of course the genius of the Leave campaign was to quote a false number so that we all kept talking about it - who honestly thinks the man in the street cares whether it's £200m or £350m? Either way its a big number and a big net cost. 

The true £10bn pa net cost to the UK is (coincidently) very similar to the net transfer that Scotland receives from the rest of the UK. Perhaps more relevantly, it's the equivalent of about £150 per head for every person in the UK.

Scotland's figure is a roughly £0.5bn pa net contribution to the EU every year, or about £100 per head (although without the UK abatement it would be nearly double that).

Here's the problem.  When people hear the "£2,000 per head fiscal transfer from rUK" number, common responses include "so what: leaving the EU is economically damaging and it didn't stop us" or "but the cost of leaving the EU is far greater". 

This is the danger when complex economic debates become reduced to a couple of headline-grabbing figures - people intuitively response by grabbing hold of the headline numbers (or arguments) they can remember ... and often end up making false "apples-for-pears" comparisons in the process. 

Let me explain.

Putting aside the EU exit charge, the annual impact of leaving the EU for the UK is a direct, day-one saving of c.£10bn pa or £150 per head. The comparable figure for Scotland leaving the UK is a direct day-one loss of  nearly £11bn pa or £2,000 per head.

So on a like-for-like "apples-for-apples" basis, the economic arguments are not even vaguely comparable. The UK leaving the EU prevents a £150/head transfer out from the UK, Scotland leaving the UK prevents a £2,000/head transfer in to Scotland.

The important point (both for Brexit and Scexit) is that this represents only the day-one fiscal tranfer impact before the impact of separation on our broader economic performance. It assumes nothing else changes - and the one thing that Scottish separatists and those of us who believe in UK-wide solidarity can agree on is that an awful lot would change (it's just the direction and scale of that change we disagree on).

The big headline "cost of Brexit" figures (e.g "£200 billion by the end of 2020") refer to this wider economic impact - normally an estimate of a cumulative GDP impact versus an alternative Remain scenario.

So what would the equivalent "cost of Scexit" figure be?

The first thing to note is the answer to that question is most definitely not the annual £10bn+, £2,000 per head figure that has become so totemic in this debate. If you've followed the logic up to here, you will realise that is a completely different additional cost that exists with Scexit, something which in Brexit terms was in fact a benefit.

Quantifying the long term economic cost of Scotland leaving the UK is of course not easy. Indeed Sottish separatists will argue that being freed from the contraints of Westminster will lead to a flourishing of the Scottish economy - but in doing so they echo the language of the Brexiteers and are falling into the same trap.

If we agree that Brexit will be a big net economic cost (I certainly do) then logically the equivalent economic cost for Scotland leaving the UK will be so much greater. 

The main driver of the Brexit downside is the risk of introducing trade friction with the EU. Scexit risks introducing trade friction between Scotland and rUK - and Scotland exports 3x more to rUK than we do to the EU (even after over 40 years of unfettered EU market access).

But Scexit introduces additional downsides: we share a currency, a welfare state and deeply integrated machinery of state within the UK. Leaving the EU will be a cake-walk in comparison - the economic cases are not even remotely comparable.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Fact Checking a Fact Check

The National today published a 1,000 article rather hilariously labelled as a "Fact Check" which amounted to little more than a personal attack against me. The entire piece is predicated on their view that issuing a clarification is "being forced to eat your words" - it's a sorry state of affairs when a blogger has more journalistic integrity than a publication claiming to be a national newspaper. Despite taking all those words merely to demonstrate their own failure to grasp the basic facts of the matter, they boldly conclude: "Chokkablog gets it spectacularly wrong".

Well allow me to retort.

Context

I wrote some tweets and a blog complaining about Kate Forbes' attempts to seek grievance by suggesting that Rishi Sunak's "Plan for Jobs" £30bn pandemic support was worth only £21m to Scotland.

My main complaint was that she was mithering about funds the Scottish Government was receiving, cynically expecting independence supporters to read that as being all the support that Scotland was receiving. You might be thinking only a knuckle-dragging grievance-junky would make such a mistake. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the National's front page splash yesterday:


For the avoidance of any doubt: the claim that "Scotland only gets £21m from '£30bn'" is absolutely and unequivocally false. Rememember: this is the paper which is claiming to be publishing a "Fact Check" on this topic!

Here is what the IFS actually said: "Of course, Scotland as a nation will receive much more – UK-wide measures like the Job Retention Bonus, Kickstart Scheme and VAT cut could amount to around £1 billion of genuinely new money for Scottish businesses, jobseekers and consumers. And the Scottish Government itself will receive over £700 million as a result of other funding confirmed in the Summer Economic Update"

I also questioned the veracity of the £21m number itself, even as the figure the Scottish Government would get "of the £30bn". As is always the way with my blog, I laid out the audit-trail of information I was able to find, explained my reasoning and was clear about what I could and could not show.

I concluded: "To be clear: I don't know what the Barnett Consequentials are on the £30bn figure, but I do know the correct denominator for the calculation is certainly not £30bn* and I would be amazed if the correct numerator was as low as £21m"

* as that includes funds spent directly in Scotland, not via the Scottish Government

I was completely clear about the basis of my judgement and - as it happens - I was right.

Again looking at what the IFS actually said: "the Scottish Government will get far more than £21 million. Because stamp duty is devolved to Scotland it will get much more than that [..] Exactly how much is not yet clear [..] but initial estimates published by the OBR this week suggest it could amount to around £120 million spread over this year and next"

So why did I apologise?

I apologised because in my blog I referenced a statement made by the IFS as support for my conclusions and - emboldended by the IFS spokeperson being quoted as saying the £21m was "not true" - I said "far fewer people will take the time to understand the complicated truth than accept the simple lie".

When the IFS issued a subsequent statement (the one I quote above) highlighting that they had - like me - not realised how much of the £30bn was recycled money, I felt it would be wrong for me not to update my blog to reflect that. I also felt, in the light of the revised IFS statement, that I had been overly harsh in suggesting that Kate Forbes' claim was a "lie" and that I should apologise for that - so I did. I also pinned the Tweet making that apology to my Twitter profile, to ensure it was widely seen.

The National "Fact Check"

They offer their readers this "Doorstep answer": "Kevin Hague was forced to eat his words when the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies did the sums again and agreed with the Cabinet Secretary. Hague was forced to apologise."

I wasn't forced to do anything - who on earth do they think did this forcing? In fact what happened is that I had the integrity to ensure that my post was updated to reflect the IFS's own updated statement and I hope the good grace to recognise that I had been overly harsh in my original wording.

I'll skip the National's ad hominem attacks on me and the organisation I chair and try and focus on the odd moments where the National attempts to deal with what I actually wrote. They say: "he accepts at face value the Chancellor’s claim that the Plan for Jobs means £30bn of new money, though there are references in the initial Treasury paper to existing cash pledges being “brought forward”.

It is patently untrue that I accepted £30bn at face value as new money. They're claiming this is a "Fact Check" remember and my exact words were: "Now some of these are described as "accelerating investment" and some are "previously announced" - so it's possible that the Barnett Consequentials relating to them have already been included in previous figures announced". 

The National go on to say: "Suspiciously, despite endless laudatory quotes from Sunak’s Plan for Jobs .."

Far from being endless, there isn't a single "laudatory quote" in my blog (remember, they think this is a "Fact Check") - I merely detail what's in the Plan to explicitly separate out what would be UK-wide and so have no impact on the Scottish Government's budget.

They then rather neatly highlight my transparent honesty (don't forget they claim I'm doing this "suspiciously"): "... Hague actually avoids giving exact numbers for what he considers to be the correct Barnett consequentials. In fact, he admits: “I don’t know what the Barnett consequentials are on the £30bn figure”. How then can he criticise Kate Forbes?"

The problem here is that the author of the National's "Fact Check" clearly has no understanding of how an analytical audit trail works, or why admitting that you don't have the information to be able to calculate or recreate a specific figure is not "suspicious", it's transparent and honest. It is precisely because I am being very careful to avoid misleading readers of my blog that I feel I can criticise Kate Forbes.

The National continue: "Instead, Hague quotes an analysis written on the day of the Chancellor’s statement, by Peter Phillips of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Here Philips rejects the Cabinet Secretary’s figure of £21m in Barnett consequentials as simply “not true”. Unfortunately for Hague, a week later Phillips completely reversed his judgement, explicitly exonerating Forbes."

It's not "instead" and it was an interview quote not an "an analyis", but yes I referenced an IFS quote in support of my conclusion - which is why when they issued a clarification I updated my blog.  It's also obvious to anybody who reads what the IFS actually wrote that, while mainly complaining about Sunak's misleading presentation of the figures, they were not "explicitly exonerating Forbes". They were recognising that the £21m was a valid number under a specific definition (Barnett Consequentials of newly announced spend) but also that it is not even all of the money the Scottish Government "get" as a result of newly announced spend ("Because stamp duty is devolved to Scotland it will get much more than that").

The National's Conclusion is actually - unintentionally I'm sure - rather flattering: "KEVIN Hague was quick to reword his original blog (yesterday). He also apologised for essentially calling her a liar. But in his reworked blog post, there remains the implication that Forbes was manufacturing grievance for political ends. Buried deep in the small print of the revised blog, Hague makes a grudging admission regarding his earlier erroneous criticisms of the Cabinet Secretary’s integrity: “... it’s only fair to highlight that her figure is more justifiable than my original wording implies.”

"Buried deep in the small print" amuses me, given there is no small print, it's the conclusion of the blog and I screen-capped, tweeted and pinned the apology - but whatever. Apart from that nonsense I'm pretty happy with the rest of their summary to be honest. Only a single-issue propaganda sheet with no journalisic integrity or interest in factual accuracy would see the act of clarifying and apologising as a bad thing - and my suggestion that she was manufacturing grievance for political ends is vindicated by the National's own headline on Friday, so I guess I should thank them for that!

Now, while it's always super fun to start the weekend defending yourself against a hit-piece in a national newspaper, I really do have better things to be doing with my time.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Kate Forbes' Grievance, Dissected

At the time of writing, in the 24 hours since being posted this tweet from Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has received around 4 thousand retweets and likes Those are some big social media numbers for a bold claim - so let us dissect this grievance:

"Of the c.£30 billion announced by the Chancellor today to support the economy"

It's clear she's referring to this announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and a quick browse finds us the (up to) £30bn

"the Scottish Government will receive..."

A cynic might see signs of sophistry here: by referring to what "the Scottish Government will receive" is she hoping casual readers will read that as being all the economic support Scotland will receive? Surely not.

On the off-chance that anybody might have fallen for this rather clumsy rhetorical sleight of hand: for those parts of the scheme that are UK or GB-wide, Scotland will receive money based directly on need (or take-up), it just won't come via the conduit of the Scottish Government.

So by limiting herself to funds "the Scottish Government will receive" she's able to ignore our needs-based share of the:
  • £9.4bn Job Retention Bonus
  • £2.1bn Kickstart Scheme 
  • £1.2bn of various support programmes for those seeking work
  • £1.2bn of decarbonisation initiatives
  • £0.5bn "Eat Out to Help Out" scheme
  • £0.3bn of UK-wide investment in "World Class Laboratories"
The above totals £14.7bn, of which Scotland will of course receive its fair share based on need and/or take-up. If we assume for illustrative purposes that equates to our 8.2% population share, that's £1,200m she's decided to disregard.

But the above are just the UK and GB-wide spending elements of the support package announced - the £30bn also includes £4.1bn of VAT reduction for hospitality, accomodation and attractions which Scotland will benefit from based on our share of consumption in those sectors (the Scottish tourism industry being of particular significance here). Again if we assume this translates into our 8.2% population share (my guess is it will be higher), that's another c.£330m of economic support she's disregarding.

But it doesn't stop there: the £30bn headline number also includes a £3.8bn cut to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in England and NI. This is a tax fully devolved to Scotland (as LBTT) and there has been nothing - other than political will and/or courage - to prevent the Scottish government taking similar action. [I'll be honest: how - if at all - this cut would affect the Scottish Block Grant Adjustment is not something I've taken the time to get my head around].


**** Update 17/07/2020 ****
There will indeed be a Scottish budget increase as a direct result of this SDLT cut - according to the IFS: "Exactly how much is not yet clear – it will depend on updated forecasts and ultimately outturns for stamp duty revenues in England and Northern Ireland. But initial estimates published by the OBR this week suggest it could amount to around £120 million spread over this year and next."


So if we add together the elements above, we have identified £22.6bn of the £30bn which is not relevant to the figure that the Scottish Government should receive.


"... only £21m - less than 0.1%"

Where does the £21m come from? The implication is that this is the Barnett consequentials on the £30bn announced, but that's a hard number to calculate (and as we've seen, £30bn is the wrong denominator to use).

We've already shown that £22.6bn of the package announced wouldn't be relevant for the purposes of calculating Barnett Consequentials anyway (because those are sums being spent UK or GB-wide and/or relate to tax cuts, not spending). 

But that still leaves us with c.£7bn of spending committed to England on which we might expect Barnett consequentials to flow to the Scottish Government.

That £7bn is made up of;
  • £2.0bn of Green Homes Grant (an English initiative)
  • £1.5bn of "accelerating investment" in England's NHS
  • £0.8bn of "accelerating investment" in England's Schools
  • £0.6bn of other "accelerating investment" in English infrastructure projects
  • £0.9bn of English home building / housing fund increase
  • £0.3bn of England-only job support
  • c.£1.0bn of implied other English infrastructure investment (mainly the Affordable Homes Programme)
Now some of these are described as "accelerating investment" and some are "previously announced" - so it's possible that the Barnett Consequentials relating to them have already been included in previous figures announced.

But Kate Forbes is talking about the amount that will flow to the Scottish Government "of the £30bn announced" and is using the £30bn as the denominator for her grievance-headline grabbing "less than 0.1%" claim - so it would simply be incorrect to exclude any of the Barnett Consequentials from the above in her calculation, whenever they may have been previously announced or discussed.

To be clear: I don't know what the Barnett Consequentials are on the £30bn figure, but I do know the correct denominator for the calculation is certainly not £30bn and I would be amazed if the correct numerator was as low as £21m (the Green Homes Scheme alone would surely generate £160m of Barnett Consequentials?)

In fact as I am writing this post I see "Leading economist: £21m claim by SNP finance chief not true" in which David Phillips of the IFS reaches the same conclusion.


**** Update 17/07/2020 ****
David Phillips has subsequently posted this "Up to £10 billion of the Chancellor's 'Plan for Jobs' will be funded by underspends on previously planned projects" making this very important correction:

"But the Scottish Government won’t, as I initially presumed, get extra funding as a result of the Green Homes Grant or the full £40 million it would if all of the money for traineeships and so on were new. Instead, apart from the stamp duty money, it will receive £21 million – the figure quoted by the Scottish Finance Minister – as a result of the combination of the ‘Plan for Jobs’ and the reductions in investment spending elsewhere that the Treasury is now expecting."

Revisiting my own text in the light of this, a couple of observations and corrections:

I said above "some of these are described as "accelerating investment" and some are "previously announced" - so it's possible that the Barnett Consequentials relating to them have already been included in previous figures announced" - Whilst I was right, there's no doubt that when writing I was assuming that some rather than effectively all of these figures had already been announced. So mea culpa, I fell into the same trap as the IFS

I did say "To be clear: I don't know what the Barnett Consequentials are on the £30bn figure" - and to be fair I still don't. All we know now is that the Barnett Consequentials on the proportion of the £7bn [i.e. that part of the £30bn that is not being spent UK or GB-wide] which is genuinely new money is £21m (and that there will be an additional c.£120m block grant adjustment over 2 years related to the SDLT cut).

I said above "I would be amazed if the correct numerator was as low as £21m ". Given at this stage we are past the "suggesting that what matters here is what the Scottish Government gets as opposed to what the people of Scotland get"point, we are now debating technicalities. So it's fair to point out that a/ "of the £30bn" the consequentials are indeed greater than £21m - when quoting the £21m we should be saying "of what's new in the £30bn" b/ the £21m excludes the block grant adjustment impact of the SDLT cut, worth c.£120m over 2 years

But I've thought about this and, given the incremental Barnett Consequentials from what was annouced are only £21m, I don't think it's unreasonable that Kate Forbes chose that as her headline "the Scot Gov gets" number. In an ideal world she should have said "the only new money the Scottish Government will receive is ..." and even then should have included c£120m for the likely SDLT block grant adjustment ... but it would be inconsistent of me to hold her to higher standards than HM Treasury, and it's their attempt to pass recycled money off as new that's caused the confusion and provided her with cover.

None of this changes the most important point here, the point Kate Forbes was hoping to distract from (again quoting the IFS):

Of course, Scotland as a nation will receive much more – UK-wide measures like the Job Retention Bonus, Kickstart Scheme and VAT cut could amount to around £1 billion of genuinely new money for Scottish businesses, jobseekers and consumers. And the Scottish Government itself will receive over £700 million as a result of other funding confirmed in the Summer Economic Update – mainly as a result of extra spending on public services in England such as the NHS.


There is no doubt in my mind that Forbe's tweet was intended to stoke grievance by implying that Scotland is only seeing 0.1% of the £30bn. That in itself is at best pretty disappointing, at worst downright outrageous.

But even if we grant her the semantic benefit of the doubt - if we assume she was expecting her followers to interpret this as an issue of control of spending rather than the absolute amount of support the Scottish economy is receiving - the figures she quotes make no sense. 

The Barnett Consequentials resulting from the figures annouced yesterday will clearly be greater than she claims*, and she divides this wrong figure by the wrong figure anyway to get to her 0.1% claim. This is the sort of behaviour that gives people like me headaches.


**** Update 17/07/2020 ****
* per the update above: the Barnett Consequential from that part which is new money of the figures annouced will not be greater than she claims. The italicised part above is important, but it's only fair to highlight that her figure is more justifiable than my original wording implies


It took Kate Forbes a couple of minutes to fire out that tweet, and it will have done its job for her amongst the SNP's grievance-hungry supporters. The moment I saw the tweet I, like so many others, knew instinctively it was nonsense. But it has taken me most of the day to robustly show why - and far fewer people will take the time to understand the complicated truth than accept the simple lie*. Such is the depressing reality of modern politics, I guess.


**** Update 17/07/2020 ****
* I still have issues with the tweet - the implication that £21m is all Scotland is getting, the fact she uses £30bn as the denominator ("of the £30bn") when most of the £30bn is UK-wide spend anyway and the fact that she ignore the block grant adjustment impact of the SDLT cut - but knowing what we now know about the way the treasury recycled already committed spending to make it look like new spending, I think I was wrong to label the tweet a "simple lie" and offer my apologies to Kate Forbes for doing so 


***

As an addendum: I see Andrew Wilson - Chair of the SNP's Sustainable Growth Commission (a commission on which Kate Forbes sat) - has offered his hot take:
Apparently in the world of the SNP fan-club, she is making a "self evidently truthful point" .. and to highlight the reality of the support the Scottish economy is receiving from the UK government is to somehow fail to "back devolution".

I despair.

***

For those who care about the workings, the below is the spreadsheet I used to turn the text in the "Plan for Jobs" report into something I could interpret