Scottish Independence

I have added a page listing polls on support for Scottish independence here (and linked from the sidebar). It’s a question that produces some wildly differing responses, allowing people to argue that the polls show almost anything they want. It tends to be asked about in at least four different ways, they all show different things and pollsters aren’t consistent over time in what they ask, so it’s hard to pick up a trend. So, what can we tell about the actual state of public opinion?

When respondents are asked to choose from a broad range of options – complete independence, increased powers for the Scottish Parliament, the status quo or the abolition of the Scottish Parliament – we almost always find that complete independence is only the preferred option of somewhere between a quarter and a third of people in Scotland. The favoured option is nearly always to retain the Scottish Parliament but give it increased tax raising powers. This is one instance were the same question can be tracked over time, since it is asked every year in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. The most recent figures show 23% of people in favour of independence, 55% in favour of a Parliament with tax raising powers, 8% in favour of the status quo and 10% in favour of the Scottish Parliament being abolished and a return to Westminster rule.

The only question that consistently produces a plurality in favour of Scottish independence is in response to the straightforward question of whether respondents are in favour of Scotland becoming a country independent of the UK. Responses vary over time, but more often than not the balance is in favour of independence.

These have been quite simple questions though – independence or not. Questions that have given respondents more technical or more tightly defined options, asking them to say how they would vote in a referendum to chose between an independent Scotland outside of the United Kingdom, or retaining the Scottish Parliament as it is now, have tended to show a slim overall majority opposed to independence with support for full independence down to around a third.

Two possible explanations for the difference suggest themselves to me. Firstly I suspect that the straightforward “do you support independence” style questions are getting an emotional, gut response driven by patriotism. They are people saying that Scotland is a country in its own right, rather than people thinking about the constitutional arrangements for governing that country. The other possiblity that strikes me is the mention of the Scottish Parliament – in the simpler questions it is a choice between an independent Scotland or some unspecified alternative…when the alternative is spelt out as being the existing Scottish parliament, some respondents are presumably of the view that they are happy with that.

What is the best representation of Scottish opinion? Well in many ways they are just measuing different things – it can be both true that the preferred option is a Parliament with tax-raising powers, but given a forced choice between independence or the status quo people would plump for the latter. In practical terms though public support for Scottish independence is important purely because the day may come when people in Scotland vote on it in a referendum, and since the SNP last year set out what sort of question they would ask in a referendum, we can see what people think about that.

Referendum voting intention polls this far out aren’t particularly reliable – like general election polls they can only tell us how people would vote if there was a referendum tomorrow…and there isn’t. In real life if there was a referendum tomorrow there would have been a couple of weeks of campaigning beforehand and who knows how opinion would have changed once people considered the arguments. For now though, polls using the sort of wording that the SNP have suggested for a referendum show a lead for NO voters, though varying in size between 20 points and a narrow 4 point lead. Given the underlying preference for a beefier Scottish Parliament over full independence, I’m more inclined to believe the former, but who knows what would happen during a campaign.

42 Responses to “Scottish Independence”

  1. If it is true that a majority of the Scottish people want the existing Parliament-within the Union, but with more powers and fiscal autonomy-this would appear to be what the Scottish Tories are also in favour of……but it seems that the antipathy to voting Conservative does not permit the Scottish voter to make the logical step…..prefering perhaps to have “their own” in charge in the shape of SNP……who presumably would be very happy with de-facto independence whilst protesting the while about still being tied to The Union.?

    …Meanwhile, as Annabelle Goldie takes the Scottish Conservatives in a direction she perceives as popular ( correctly so if Anthony’s analysis is to be believed)….David Cameron supports The Union whilst, so far as I am aware, saying nothing about fiscal autonomy….and yet it must be Conservative to the core to believe that Scottish MSP’s shouldhave to go and ask Scottish voters ( and not English ones) for the taxes , which they want the autonomy to spend in Scotland.

    There are lots of strange tensions in this Pandora’s Box of Scottish Devolution.

  2. Thank you for this new service Anthony. We really do need to keep a proper, professional record of these findings somewhere on the net.

    I suspect that you have missed quite a lot of polls from pre-2006, but I would have to do some research. I’ll mail you with any older ones I find. I will only send British Polling Council members’ polls – no Mickey Mouse crap here at UKPR ;)

  3. Stuart – I’ll have missed tons from pre-2006. This is only a compliation of the polls easily found on the websites of the main pollsters.

  4. I’ve always wondered why the English are never asked about Scottish independence. It’s as though in a marriage, only the wife was allowed to decide whether to divorce or not.
    I suspect that as the Scots get more and more privileges over England (student fees, police pay etc etc), which is perceived to be at English expense, there could be a growing majority of English people in favour of Scottish independence!

  5. Pete,

    I watched the BBC News at 10 pm tonight, and Scotland got two mentions.

    English Council tax to rise by 4%+, Scotland’s to be frozen and 20,000 Police officers march over their backdated pay award, Scotland’s police had theirs back dated.

    Expect the fireworks to start in the Sunday paper.

    Oh and the SNP’s budget got through to the next stage, all be it by 4 votes. Still not bad for a minority government.



    Your latest comments at 11.54pm are exactly what will bring the SNP down eventually / treating the handouts as if they are desrved by Scotland & can be spent to humiliate the Englsh government & gain popularity with the Scottish electorate – arrogance and flipant remarks based on English tax payers money will back fire on you – expect any future Tory government to placate the Englsih electorate as that is where their base is as yours is in Scotland – a tiny part of the UK !

    I say once again Peter – these latest Scottish POLLS and chat subjects are certainly showing your truer colours ! mmm

  7. Mike,

    Your missing the point.

    It’s all about perception and particularly public perception.

    Look at the polls where the Barnet formula is asked about, the results are stark and consistent.

    People in England and in particular those parts where the Tories are strong believe Scotland doesn’t deserve the money it gets. The same polls show equally that the majority of Scotland’s voters think the opposite.

    In a political sense it doesn’t actually matter who is right, people will react on their beliefs.

    So come the weekend we can expect those in the London press to say ” Whinging subsidy junky jocks”, and the reaction in Scotland to be ” We pay our way it’s you that are stealing from us”. Not particularly nice but predictable.

    As Matthew Paris said ” Whenever I hear of a wave of public indignation, I am struck by an inner calm”.

    That’s one of the reasons Brown and Cameron are both in their own ways cautious about addressing the Barnet formula.

    It wouldn’t get Labour enough extra votes where it needs them and it would almost certainly cost them dearly in Scotland where they are more and more reliant on the seats they have .

    For Cameron it would go down well in seats he will probably win anyway but could see him wiped out again in Scotland and that would undermine them as a unionist party for no real gain.

    As importantly if we know anything about public reactions then when the government makes a change the reaction of those not effected tends to be muted, even if they agree with it, while the reaction of those who lose out tends to be fury.

    So an English reaction to any funding change would probably be a short ” about time too” with no substantial or long term gain for those introducing it, while the Scottish reaction would be akin to Poll Tax Mk2.

    If I seem to be being flippant it’s because all this seems blindingly obvious and predictable.

    Even if I was being off hand about it at the end of the day what’s wrong with a flippant post, this is a Blog after all not a Government White Paper.


  8. All very well said Peter. Especially about the losers being far more concerned about a change than the winners.

    If Cameron gets elected PM then he should go one of either two ways w.r.t. Scotland.

    1: Create a referendum and push for its independence.
    2: Avoid doing anything (like poll tax) to piss off the Scots and try to get back in their good books again.

    There are a lot of people in Scotland who if not in Scotland could naturally be Conservatives. If Scotland is to stay in the UK then the next Tory government probably should try and appeal to them and avoid doing anything (like changing the Barnett formula) to wind them up further.

  9. The poll and yoour analysis suggests that Scotland is edging further away from the idea of full independence: at the same time they want more power to the Scottish Parliamnet. Probably one factor is that they see more money coming their way by this.

    If so then things are not much different elsewhere in the UK. That is exactly what many regions,and local Parishes. want. However Scotland and Wales have a mandate for that in the form of the “Parliaments” and constitutions (if that id the right word to use)that reprisent them.

    Central Government should take the opportunity to improve local accountability and democracy all round.

  10. Hi there. Does anyone have any figures on what public spending is per head in Scotland compared to England? I have heard a lot of different figures, but the majority of the papers who howl about it seem to look at it in terms of England subsidising Scotland. From what I understand though it is really the South East of England subsidizing most of the rest of the UK (and rightly so). It would be more interesting to compare the North of England or Cornwall with Scotland and Wales…

    It is those English regions which are really forgotten about…..

  11. Sorry – off topic, but the Inde is reporting some polling results relating to Cameron/Osborne versus Brown/Darling. It seems to be a poll based on 118 business men. An odd number? Well, an even number – but you know what I mean. Part of a larger poll to be released or just a [small] Comres tangent?
    Are we not due a Comres poll?
    The results were not good for Brown. Wosre for Darling – but I am not sure you can base much on the evidence of 118 people. Then again I don’t suppose you try and round up 2000 business men.

  12. Alasdair Cameron,
    I don’t have complete figures, only the tops and bottoms of tables.

    2005-06 Spending Per Capita
    N.Ireland : £10,271
    London : £9748
    Scotland : £9631
    SE England : £7554
    E England : £7256

    However, those figures don’t really tell you much about who’s subsidised and who’s subsidising. For that, we need to look at tax revenues raised and spent.

    2005-06 Revenues Raised Per Capita
    London : £10,947
    Scotland : £9593
    N.Ireland : ~£6003
    NE England : £6000

    Scotland raises the most revenue for the UK, outside of London.

    2005-06 Per Capita difference
    N.Ireland : £4268
    Scotland : £38
    London : -£1119

    So Scotland “cost” the English tax-payer ~£38 per Scots, or ~£3.80 from every Englishman’s pocket, in the year 2005-06. Now that oil is $100/barrel (twice what it was 05-06), things may well be different.

    The big drains on England are Northern Ireland, North-East and North-West England (~£2000), and Wales. Scotland’s £38p/c drain is about 4% of revenues raised in Scotland, and quite frankly is of very little consequence to the rest of the UK.

  13. Hi ZX, that’s what I thought. Scotland has a high per capita income compared to most of the country. I think a lot of this debate comes from the perception of Scotland as a poverty stricken place, held by the London-media… I also think the London media have a habit of thinking that about everywhere……

    On the Scottish side too when people talk about how hard-done to they are by the Union they always look at how rich the South East is.. never at Liverpool or Blackburn.

    Of course I suspect the Bartlett formula does complicate things, but the real issue in the country is London’s over-dominance of the economic and political scene, expecially in England. (I must confess that I live there now so I’m as guilty as anyone..)

  14. Shouldn’t that be Barnett formula…. too much West Wing I fear.

  15. Some other stats re SCotland:-

    Total Government Expenditure in Scotland -£45.3 Billion-or 10% of UK total

    Total Revenues from Scotland-IT/CT/VAT/Soc. Sec./LA-£34 Billion-or 8.2% of UK Total ( excluding from North Sea Oil)

    North Sea Oil-assuming all Scottish-£7 Billion ( which is 6% Of SCottish GDP)

    Public Spending as share of GDP on a basis comparable with EU & OECD-2006

    1st ( highest) NI 76.2%
    2nd WAles

  16. Sorry-start again on Public spend /GDP

    1st ( Highest) NI 76.2%
    2nd WAles 66.2%
    3rd NE UK 64.9&
    4th Scotland 57.7%
    5th Sweden 56.1%
    6th FRance 54.1%
    21st Germany 45.6%
    26th England 44.2%
    32nd CAnada 40.5%
    41st Ireland 34.7%

  17. I think people are generally sympathetic to the way Scotland spends its money on home helps and better drugs. IMHO the real problem area is Northern Ireland.PS Apparently Kent are now recruiting Northern Irish teachers made redundant by the closure of schools there. Of course the cost of training these teachers isn’t shown as a cost against Kent

  18. IMHO the whole point of society is that to some degree those areas with more money help pay for those with less to have essential services… otherwise what is the point, regardless of whether it is the North of England or Ireland….

  19. Colin,

    IF £7 billion is 6% of Scottish GDP then Scottish GDP is £116 bn, of which £45.3 bn would be 37.5% where as you have it as 57.7%.

    Even if Scottish GDP was only a little over £100 bn your percentage figure would make public expenditure something like £60bn.

    ZX’s figures for just over 5 million Scots give expenditure and revenue of of about £48 bn each, so you can’t both be right.

    It would also help people posted where you got these figures from.


  20. Wolf-I think that’s a little hard on Northern Ireland !!-they have been in a state of war for thirty years, which only ended last year.

    Compared with Wales who’s last war was 523 years ago-and Scotland 262 years ago-the level of public expenditure to GDP in the latter two is the “problem”-not in Northern Ireland.

    One might contrast Scotland with it’s near equal in the State Support stakes in my table-Sweden. Sweden has the second highest levels of tax on income in EU-and an overall Tax Revenue/GDP of 51% . UK is around 38%

    This is a quote from Iain M McMillan, Director, CBI Scotland:-Mar 2006

    “… fiscal autonomy for Scotland would not assist the development of Scotland’s economy. It would achieve exactly the opposite. In the latest fiscal year for which figures are available, 2003-04, the Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland (Gers) report shows public spending in Scotland by the UK government and Scottish Executive totalling £45.2 bn. Scotland’s tax revenue, however, is estimated at £34.0bn. This results in a massive fiscal deficit for that year of £11.2 bn, 12.9% of Scottish GDP.

    These numbers do not include any revenues from the North Sea, which politically and legally are allocated to the UK as a whole. But if they did, on the basis of GDP allocation, the deficit would still be huge at £10.8bn, 12.2% of GDP. Or, on the basis of Scotland receiving 75% of the oil revenues, the deficit would be lower, but still unacceptably high at £8.0bn, 7.7% of GDP.

    That is 2.5 times the maximum amount of deficit permitted by the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact. The tax arising from North Sea oil is a volatile and depleting resource; it would not be wise to rely on these revenues to make a case for fiscal autonomy. Fiscal autonomy for Scotland is unaffordable without substantial cuts in public spending, considerably higher taxes or a combination of both. The resulting severe adverse effects on Scotland’s economy and social provision would be felt for many years”

  21. Peter

    The GDP figures are at Table 2 in this from CEBR:-

    Note that that table is on a basis “adjusted” for intra & inter national comparison.

    The Public Exp & Revenue figures are from the same source that Ian McMillan used-GERS.

    The relationship between NS oil revenues & GDP was from a footnote in the GERS report for 2003/4
    -yes it does look odd-maybe its not in sync with the main figures-I don’t know-but it’s not germane to the key point & figures used by MsMillan & quoted by me.

  22. Here are a few facts backed by sources on the web…

    Scotland received 30% more public money than England in total. She also received more money than EVERY SINGLE ENGLISH REGION in 2005/6 and will do for the projected 2007 figures*. Despite being the third richest region (out of 12) it receives the second largest handout.

    Since 1998 Scotland has received £60bn more than England**. This would pay for England’s entire schools and universities budget, so think how far it goes in a country a tenth of its size.

    These figures ignore “invisible” spending (the army, civil servants, Queen, Dome and Cross Link etc) which, if counted, would put London ahead of Scotland in terms of public spending. However, these invisible earnings contribute nothing to welfare spending, but it does add fuel to house price inflation etc.

    Who subsidises whom is impossible to calculate because all the figures are not available. However, one could argue that diverting resources from a poorer area (say Wales) in order to augment services in a richer area (Scotland) is actually a subsidy.


  23. Here are more pubic spending figures…

    In Northern Ireland, Wales, North East England, Scotland and North West England, public spending as a share of regional GDP is not only far higher than the national average of 44.1 per cent, it is higher than in any EU or OECD country – at, respectively, 70.5, 64.3, 63.0, 55.6 and 54.0 per cent*. Well over half the economy in those areas is funded by the taxpayer. In London and the South East, by contrast, public spending accounts for under a third of GDP, in the East of England it is 38.3 per cent and in the South West, 42 per cent. According to cebr, the gap is widening, not shrinking.


  24. Peter-re GDP-from McMillan’s quote-£11.2 BN=12.9% GDP-therefore GDP=£87BN-therefore PE £45.2 BN is
    52% of GDP.

    I don’t know what elements in the CEBR table “adjustments” for comparison make it come to 57.7%-but it matters not to me since I was using that table for the purpose it was compiled-international comparison.

  25. Colin,

    If £11bn is 13% of GDP in 2003-4, then GDP then would be £85bn, which makes your £45bn figure 53% of GDP.

    On 75% of of revenue cutting the deficit by £3bn, Scottish GDP climbs to £104 bn.

    On the basis of £104bn public expenditure drops from 53% to 43%, lower than your 44% for England and that’s knocking the value of 75% of the value of the North sea reserves from England’s GDP.

    As to cutting public expenditure we need to start cutting it as a share of GDP, but we should do that by expanding the economy faster than public spending growth and that will take some time, but given what has happened elsewhere in Europe the EU tends to be flexible on that.

    Both Germany and France have broken the rules in recent years and got no more than a slap on the wrist, and between a slowing economy, the bonds for the Northern Rock and the reclassification of PFI schemes over the next year or two the UK may be joining them.

    The tax from North sea oil is variable, but as George Soros pointed out at Davos yesterday so is dependence on financial services.


  26. Ms Goldie is the smartest Conservative leader we have seen since John Major. I think she will turn the former “and Unionist” party into one which will vote for the referendum, campaign (not too hard) against independence and regain respectability in coalition with the Nationalists in 2011.

    The only thing that can restore the fortunes of the Scottish Conservatives is the Bavarian solution. They need independence, not for Scotland, just for the Conservative party.

    So does Scottish Labour. If they had been able to distance themselves from Iraq, nuclear power and WMD and not had the Alpha-male baboons at the top of the tree telling those on the ground how to run the campaign,they would still be in government.

  27. I think I might be about 23% in favour of independence myself.

    What I’m certainly in favour of is better government and a parliament with the founding principles of the Scottish Parliament provides that. The other doesn’t, and Donald Dewar told me half a century ago that a Home Rule parliament could be a model for the reform of Westminster.

    What if Westminster doesn’t reform?

    SP sauce is a new brand in competition with another which has dominated the market for too long and is out of date in its governance structure.

    The new brand has three times the customer satisfaction in surveys. If the old established brand was going to sharpen up its act and respond to the challenge effectively, it would have started before now, and there is no sign that the present management (or those who aspire to take over) have understood the problem or have soultions which they have the will to implement or would work. They are not organised for the modern world and the workers hang on to their traditional restrictive practices.

    It’s probably already too late to take control of the situation rather than just respond to events, but that’s symptomatic of the underlying problem with the short-termism and of the management culture.

  28. Scotland is not the second wealthiest region in the UK. Gross-Value-Added calculations provided by government statisticians show London with a GVA of 136, South-East England with 115, and Scotland with 99 (100 being the UK average). So the Scots are less productive with then the UK as a whole. [Source: The Economist].

    Scotland has above-average public spending. Couple this with below-average production this must logically apply a subsidy. [Hope my Scottish cousins have followed this conclusion without too much confusion.]

    Norther Ireland is a special-case. It’s economy is so unbalanced that most Irish politicians wince at the thought of a United Ireland. Wales is a special case only in the eyes of the Labour Party. [If the IMF GDP-PPP/capita figures are any guideline the Welsh in Patagonia are probably better off then the Welsh! By-the-way, Scottish GDP-PPP/capita is only US$33,680 to England’s 38,000 (Source: IMF/Wikipedia.] Whilst I despair of the Northern regions of England, intra-English funding should be an English matter and not one of governance by our Scottish lairds.

    As for Scottish independence, we are no longer a democracy in the UK. The views of 51 million are of no matter to the Scottish mafia. [The promised EU referendum is a case in point.] We are forced to pay “protection money” to the 5+ million who consider their nation the equal to England. [I consider Scotland to be a less-then-glamourous version of Yorkshire, but that is me!]

    As to the Tories not touching Barnett so as to appeal to Scottish voters, get real! The arrogant voters of Scotland are better ignored. Come independence there will be 58 less opposition MPs (and one less “Scootish” Conservative and Unionist – oxymoron or what)in Westminster!

    So my views on Scottish independence…? Well if we English were deigned to be granted a voice, we would probably answer that question with another: Have they gone yet…? ;)

  29. There is absolutely no doubt that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are subsidized by the English taxpayer.

    According to the Taxpayers Alliance if public spending was set at the same level per person in all 4 countries as the current level in England every English taxpayers annual tax bill would be reduced substantially.

    Oil revenues are a red herring and have nothing to do with English taxbills being higher than they should be in order for this ‘British’ Government to spend more per person on the Scots, Welsh and Irish.

    The Unions a joke, and a bad joke at that on the English.

  30. The UK regional GVA figures are as follows.

    The NUTS1 figures for the nine English government office regions and devolved countries
    of the UK are given in the table below.
    NUTS1 Regional GVA1,2 20063

    Total (£bn) Of UK (%) Growth (%) Capita (£) Index (UK=100)

    UK 1,128.8 100.0 5.1 18,631 100
    N East 38.8 3.4 5.5 15,177 81
    N West 111.3 9.9 4.5 16,234 87
    Yorkshire 82.1 7.3 4.6 15,968 86
    E Midlands 74.1 6.6 5.0 16,982 91
    W Midlands 89.0 7.9 5.0 16,583 89
    E England 109.9 9.7 4.7 19,599 105
    London 196.8 17.4 5.7 26,192 141
    S East 177.2 15.7 5.1 21,514 115
    S West 89.5 7.9 5.4 17,467 94

    England 968.6 85.8 5.1 19,082 102
    Wales 42.7 3.8 4.9 14,396 77
    Scotland 91.0 8.1 5.4 17,789 95
    N Ireland 26.4 2.3 5.6 15,175 81

    Issued by National Statistics
    1 Drummond Gate
    London SW1V 2QQ

    Press Office 020 7533 5725
    Public Enquiries 0845 601

    When you see the whole table what shows up clearly is that it’s London that skews the whole thing. Take out London let alone the S East and England falls from 102 to 94.

    However, It should be remembered that over a decade and a half the UK population has increased by several million predominantly in the South and London while Scotland’s has been largely static.

    There has also been a property boom and a credit boom, so the question of how sustainable the current growth of the south east can continue.

    Comparing Scotland to various regions can put things in perspective, but regardless with a per capita GVA of nearly £18,000 Scotland is more than economically viable. The trick is to have higher but sustainable growth.

    Scotland has poor growth and needs to improve it, but I have my doubts about whether the last decade of debt driven growth is all it’s been cracked up to be.


  31. Do all the English nationalists want a retrospective referendum for the English people on Indian independence as well?

    I wouldn’t dispute that Scotland has higher public spending per capita than England, though the advantage has reduced under Labour, as it ought to under the Barnett Formula.

    The question is, do Scottish voters want more powers to come from Westminster to Holyrood? The answer is yes. In 1997, 25% backed direct rule. A decade later, it’s just 10%. Meanwhile, only 8% are still backing Donald Dewar’s white paper. Everyone else wants more. Anyone spot a trend?

    The meaning and consequences of independence are generally understood. But the devolution-plus option has not really been spelled out, has it? People want more is the main message from these polls. How far they go depends on many variables that will change over time.

  32. Personally I think this whole argument is red herring, as I have implied above..

    Who subsidizes who is really not the most important thing to consider. My tax pays for the health care of others, although I could afford private care. It is sad that some of the shriller nationalist voices on some side of the border drown out the will of the reasonable majority who recognize that there is more to society than small tweaks in subsidy…

    While we are on the subject though, the CIA Factbook estimate that primary energy production (Read oil and gas and associated industries)accounts for 10% of GDP.. that is also a subsidy!

  33. I know I am probably wasting my time, but lets get facts in order. From the CIA Worldbook:

    UK Economy (by sector)
    agriculture: 0.9%
    industry: 23.6%
    services: 75.5% (2007 est.) – No ten percent Oil/Gas!

    Oil Production
    1.861 million bbl/day = 679.265 million bbl/year = US$61,133,850,000 p.a. ($90/bbl) or about £31,000,000,000 a year from an economy that is estimated at $2.472 trillion (or about 2.5%).
    According to “The Economist” most of the UK’s gas-fields reside in English waters, so any benefit is unlikely to sit well with the Holyrooders.

    Peter, the figures you provide are difficult to read. Such are the limitations of HTML. However I have hoiked this from Wikipedia as another analysis of UK regional income. The figures (Euros) are for 2004 and come from Eurostat:

    London, England 44 401
    South East England 31 300
    East of England 27 778
    Scotland 27 669
    South West England 27 348
    East Midlands, England 26 863
    West Midlands, England 25 931
    North West England 25 396
    Yorkshire and the Humber, England 25 300
    Northern Ireland 23 319
    North East England 22 886
    Wales 22 567

    I would take the figures for the Northern English regions with a pinch of salts. I would hazard that the PPP-value is greater then the nominal value as, by all accounts, things are relatively cheap up north.

    Anyhows…, lies, damned lies and statistics. As I consider myself a soul-mate of Peter Cairns – I’d love Scotland to be independent, the sooner the cheaper as far as England is concerned – I will retire from this debate. I remain to be convinced that England gains anything from this union.

  34. Fluffy,

    “Oil Production
    1.861 million bbl/day = 679.265 million bbl/year = US$61,133,850,000 p.a. ($90/bbl) or about £31,000,000,000 a year from an economy that is estimated at $2.472 trillion (or about 2.5%).
    According to “The Economist” most of the UK’s gas-fields reside in English waters, so any benefit is unlikely to sit well with the Holyrooders.”

    The value of the North Sea oil and gas in GDP terms is not one years production at $90 bbl, but inclides all the income of all those involved, the infrastructure and supporting services. It’s more than 2.5% although I am not sure it’s 10%.

    What it does do along with Scotland is knock probably between 11-14% off of UK GDP ( the CIA give a GDP not GVA figure)and that means that even losing Scotland a lot of Uk figures will get worse.

    In terms of most trade it will help, for example a lot of financial services that take place between Edinburgh and London will suddenly show up on the balance of payments.

    Conversely the Oil imports will go alarmingly in to the red and probably gas too because although the bulk ( about 75% I think) is in English waters you are already a net importer. Even if Scotland only gets 20% with less than 9% of the gas usage we’ll be in the black.

    I think the mostly likely result in the short term is that it would be broadly neutral for us both. it’s like the Tory Labour debates of the last two elections.

    A series of huge battles over £8-£16 bn over five years in cuts or increases dominated both campaigns but when set against annual government spending of near £500 bn.

    In effect the figures we fought two elections over work out on an annual basis at less than the accepted margin of error in annual accounts.


  35. Peter:-

    “In effect the figures we fought two elections over work out on an annual basis at less than the accepted margin of error in annual accounts”

    ….!!..whose annual accounts?
    I can assure you that the annual accounts of listed companies have zero margin for error.
    Perhaps though you meant government departments like The Treasury-or The EU-yes a 3% margin of error would be a vast improvement for them.

    Somewhere you commented on “Financial Services” being a more significant factor in UK GDP than is sometimes thought. ( cant find where now)-The Sunday Times Leader today puts the figure at 30%-now that is worrying I agree.

    ps-I hope the leaks on Barvas Moor are correct !!


  36. Colin,

    “….!!..whose annual accounts?
    I can assure you that the annual accounts of listed companies have zero margin for error.”

    So no private company has ever came in under expectations, issued a profits warning, or ended the year on anything other than what they set out the April before… I don’t think so Colin.

    No set of accounts for any major body, public, private or charity ever comes in to the penny on what it had predicted a year before and to say that ” the annual accounts of major companies have zero margin of error” is nonsense.

    Like Government they account for every penny, but it’s never as predicted 12 months before.

    As to Barvas Moor, yeah it has apparently been turned down as just to big and on to sensative and unique a piece of land. It will probably come back scaled down again, but ever application has to be viewed on it’s merits.

    We’ve got a sort of “Whirl for Wind” version of the “Dash for Gas” with developers trying to put up the biggest number and size of turbine on the windiest cheapest land.

    That’s what happens when you decide to use the market to achieve strategic objectives.


  37. Peter-

    I wasn’t talking about expectations or forecasts-Companies get those wrong quite often-and politicians have made a profession out of getting them wrong-I was talking about accuracy of recording-ACCOUNTABILITY.

    The concept that the Government ( you sensibly did not mention EU) “account for every penny” is risible.
    This is but one example :-

    “I cannot form an opinion on the truth and fairness of the Home Office financial statements for 2004-05”
    Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General.

    DEFRA, The Treasury etc etc have all had accounting black holes exposed. Any listed company with such an audit qualification would find the heavy mob from the LSE on their doorstep-and as for the EU-their accounts are qualified by their auditors every year-thanks to Commissioner Kinnocks best efforts .

    As for Barvas Moor:-

    “We’ve got a sort of “Whirl for Wind” version of the “Dash for Gas” with developers trying to put up the biggest number and size of turbine on the windiest cheapest land.”

    The penny drops at last!-tell me about it!!!

    It’s not “the market” that’s the problem -If their income was restricted to the wholesale market price of electricity none of them would be viable/built. Its the bloody stupid level of the ROC subsidy. ( Read House of Lords Select Committee Report on the scale of unneccessary & excessive subsidy).
    BWEA have just published a report crowing about the profitability of the average 2MW turbine- £500,000 pa-for one turbine–of which £300k pa is subsidy-Capex payback in four years-21 years cash flow to count-yippee.
    Which Scottish Politician was it who re-designated the Highlands & Islands from a Tourist attraction to a “Wind Resource” ?

    God protect us from these people!


  38. Colin,

    No it is the market. The wholesale price without ROC is just a different market, one that doesn’t ask the polluter to pay.

    If you don’t have a problem with CO2 emissions, or for that matter coal dug by Colombian kids in slave conditions then fine, but a lot of people do.

    Nuclear makes a lot more commercial sense in “the Market” if you keep the £75bn clean up costs off the balance sheet, but they shouldn’t be.

    Whether it be land fill tax, R&D credits or corporation tax, government actions both create and influence markets.

    People who don’t like it complain about the dead hand of the state, but they really scream when they wake up to find there pensions isn’t there anymore. Then it’s where were the regulators? How could the government let this happen?…

    As to not accounting for every penny, you are aware of the fact that at this moment in time there probably isn’t a bank in the western world that can give an accurate figure for their exposure to the sub prime collapse.

    Hell Frances second largest bank managed to let someone gamble 50bn Euros and lose 4bn of it.

    Anyone who thinks that large companies accounts are any better than Governments hasn’t looked at the likes of Enron, Northern rock or indeed the millions and years spend trying to prove complex financial fraud cases.

    By and large companies the size of governments use the same kinds rules and the same kinds of accountants, and they make the same kinds of errors.

    That’s hardly rocket science, just hard to believe for the people who see the world in terms of “The nasty big bad government spends all my money”.


  39. Peter:-

    “By and large companies the size of governments use the same kinds rules and the same kinds of accountants, and they make the same kinds of errors. ”

    Absolute nonsense. Companies use double-entry book-keeping and abide by International Accounting Standards( except the Enrons with crap Auditors of course)-government departments don’t.

    One might observe that the authors of Enron style abuse end up in goal-their counterparts in government don’t.In the EU it’s worse-Commissioner Kinnock shot the auditor!!

    Your banking analogy is entirely eroneous-the asset write downs post sub-prime are nothing to do with accurate accounting for transactions -they are to do with judgements about the book value of assets.
    Soc Gen knew precisely how much they had lost-how they lost it is a function of their management systems-not their accounting systems.

    Re Wind technology etc-you’ve lost me…your second para certainly takes a leap of logic-Wind Farms in Scottish areas of ecological importance won’t save a single Columbian coal miner-and so far as CO2 saving is concerned this is what
    Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University, says-
    ” it costs consumers up to £510 for each tonne of CO2 emissions avoided through wind energy. The level of subsidy for onshore wind farms is very high and it distorts the market, making it more attractive to invest there than in other technologies ” .

    Reference your plea for a strategic approach-yes absolutely. It’s what RSPB has been urging on Scotland’s authorities for some time-If you made a start by banning any proposals for SPAs SSSIs RAMSAR sites etc it would surely save a lot of wasted time & money.The conservation criteria are already built into these protective designations.

    Anyway I’m glad we are in agreement that the dash for windfarm subsidies in Scotland is out of control.And I agree with you that calm reflection and strategic thinking is required.Of course the State has a role to play-but the RO system as currently set up has been a disaster for environmentally sensitive places whilst achieving practically nothing in energy security or emission mitigation.

    Personally-with some reservations-I think Carbon Cap & Trade is a way to drive the market in the right direction-provided ETS starts to auction permits & stop giving them away.


  40. Agree with Peter about the “whirl for wind”. It’s quite extraordinary how these utterly useless wind turbine schemes have been pushed forward. The damage they do to the Scottish uplands and moorlands is immense – it’s not so much the pylons themselves, but the infrastructure (roads, foundations etc) that are so appalling. Very much hope the Lewis proposals get thrown out – the only beneficiaries would be those getting rents; they’ll do nothing to energise the local economy.

    The other project that seems to be mesmerising Scottish politicians is Donald Trump’s proposed golf complex on a sensitive site near the coast in Aberdeenshire. So far as I can tell it seems to be mainly a large housing development with the golf element (and promise of zillions of jobs etc) designed to persuade credulous politicians that they should overturn normal planning procedures to support it.

  41. Fluffy, according to the CIA World Factbook

    ‘The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation.’ – in the economic overview