This morning in Holyrood; time to move on from GERS

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I was part of a discussion at Holyrood on Scottish Economic Data this morning, which I have previously  flagged, as I did the evidence submitted.

As I predicted in the link, above, there was remarkable unity amongst those giving evidence. It was agreed that GERS now misses the point and further investment in it makes little sense. The consensus was that developing a system that assumes, in effect, that an independent Scotland which does not exist would continue to function as if it were still a part of the UK is a complete waste of time. Apart from some rather pointed questions on GERS from Jackie Baillie MSP (who seems to be a GERS enthusiast) to me, which did not take us very far because, as I pointed out, I could not give her precise answers to questions that GERS data would not permit to be answered in the way she demanded, the entire focus of discussion was on what to do to move on to delivering better data.

And I'll be honest, most of what was useful in that debate was already in the submissions made. For the record my own elaborations were to say, first of all, that all data is subjective: the subjectivity coming in the decision as to what to measure, which is key to the success of any measurement system. Unless the goals of the organisation are supported by the reporting the latter becomes meaningless, which is why I was not convinced by the suggestion of a supposedly wholly independent of government statistical authority.

Second, I reiterated the need for better data on Scottish companies and better Scottish company regulation, which would otherwise undermine all attempts at accountability in Scotland.

Third, I emphasised the need for a Scottish balance sheet so that the undertsanding that investment is key to economic development is embedded in the system.

And last I made clear the importance of HMRC being instructed to secure Scottish VAT data, in particular.

But overall the session was most useful for saying the GERS debate needs to move on and those who think it is the focus of attention need to realise that it really is peripheral to what is needed because of the many flaws within it.

I fear some will not take any notice though. I got the impression some MSPs felt the same.

One final aside; some welcome discussions took place at a personal level and I'm grateful to those who said surprisingly kind things of my intervention in this debate. They know who they are.

And a PS: I found myself in the surprising position of saying that it was mildly embarrassing that Jersey can produce better data than Scotland on many issues, meaning Scotland has no excuse for not doing better because of size. But then, I think it's also fair to say that much of that is the legacy of John Christensen's time there.