04 July 2008
A political row has developed in Scotland over the interpretation of public spending figures showing that the country has a £10bn deficit but would be in surplus if North Sea oil revenues were included.
The annual Government expenditure revenue Scotland report, by Scottish government statisticians, shows that UK government spending in Scotland in 2006/07 totalled almost £52.5bn, after accounting adjustments.
This compares with revenue raised in Scotland of £42.3bn, resulting in a deficit of £10.2bn. According to the figures, the deficit would fall to £2.7bn if Scotland received its 'geographical share' of North Sea oil revenues.
The report was hailed by the SNP government as showing that Scotland would be in a substantially stronger position than the UK as a whole if it were able to benefit from North Sea oil. It claimed that compared with a UK deficit in 2006/07 of 2.3% of gross domestic product, the Scottish figure was 2.1%, the average for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: 'With a current budget surplus in 2006/07 of over £800m, in the context of a UK deficit of over £4bn, the flow of resources from Scotland to the rest of the UK is some £1.2bn.'
Opposition parties disputed the SNP's interpretation of the figures. Labour accused the nationalists of misrepresenting official statistics to make the case for independence.
Finance spokesman Iain Gray said: 'The SNP response [is] a distortion of what the civil service figures actually say. The inconvenient truth for the nationalists is that the figures prove yet again that Scotland benefits from being inside the UK.'
The Scottish Tories accused the SNP of being 'highly selective' in its use of the figures, while Liberal Democrats said ministers had been forced to 'cherry-pick the one scenario where Scotland would be in surplus'.