Wee Ginger Dug, and me

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I spent last evening talking to Wee Ginger Dug - or, rather, Paul Kavanagh who blogs, writes and podcasts under that name. We did, perhaps inevitably, discuss GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland), but quite a lot else came up along the way. I repost this from the Wee Ginger Dug site:

This week, especially because it’s the week of GERSmas, I am delighted to be joined online by Professor Richard Murphy.  Richard is perhaps best known in Scotland for his work on the GERS figures, but he has a wealth of experience in tax policy.  He is a chartered accountant and political economist who campaigns on issues of tax avoidance and tax evasion.  He is currently a professor of International Political Economy at the University of London.

We discuss the GERS figures and how in Richard’s estimation, “GERS is CRAP – Completely Rubbish APproximations.”  He explains how he first got interested in GERS because of his interest in the way that numbers can be used to construct a political narrative, and GERS is a perfect example of this. The GERS figures are designed to show that Scotland has a deficit, and were so designed for a political purpose.  GERS compares income WITHIN Scotland to expenditure FOR Scotland. Or more precisely to expenditure which is arbitrarily assigned to Scotland.  This is not comparing like with like.

Using a hypothetical example he explains: “If Scotland had a real deficit of 3%, and England had a real deficit of 3%, GERS would show that Scotland had a much larger deficit than England.”  He tells us how GERS is little more than a method of shovelling England’s debt onto Scotland.

It all makes for fascinating listening, and for once we had no technical issues with the sound.