A well-attended branch meeting last night, City of Stirling Branch was pleased to welcome a presentation by Cameron Archibald on GERS, its pitfalls in methodology and flaws.
It is widely acknowledged, that the motivation for creating GERS was political.
As Cameron stated in his introduction a leaked memo from Ian Lang to John Major in the early 90’s stated
“I judge that it is just what is needed at present in our campaign to maintain the initiative and undermine the other parties. This initiative could score against all of them.”
Clearly, it was a political move to stymie any allusions toward Independence. The system has never been changed since and while around 10 Scottish Govt Civil servants are responsible for the collation of the figures they rely on mostly estimates provided by the Westminster based ONS.
Cameron was quick to point out that in the figures for the equivalent figures in the United States giving the economic data for US States the term Estimate appears once. In GERS it appears no less than 175 times. They try to treat Scotland as a proportion of the UK and do not accurately reflect the full income and accounts of Scotland as a country. Only around half of the figures can in anyway be regarded as reliable. The rest is conjecture and fairly loosely stated. In one area, Defence they attribute around 3Bn to Scotland but similarly sized countries have defence spend around £1Bn. The UK Govt cannot even give figures of people employed in defence in Scotland so it is entirely finger in the wind guesswork with no evidence to back it up.
As an Economics student, Cameron pointed out that the figures in Economic and academic evaluation would be regarded as unreliable at best and not worthy as a verifiable statement of fact in terms of methodologies. You could not use them to hang a particular hat on in any dissertation as a reliable source of evidence.
In a sometimes breakneck talk, a very passionate and well informed Cameron, regaled us with many of the flaws in GERS not least the missing half a million Income Taxpayers resident and paying taxes in Scotland that HMRC doesn’t seem to be able to reach out to! The engagement with branch was high and there was a lengthy discussion of various aspects of it from why do we bother when it’s clearly unreliable, to the various experts who have dismissed the accounts as meriting little value.
Following the Talk for which Cameron was thanked by Branch, we moved on to other branch business. Please be aware that on the 12th of October ( that’s today the day this is being written!) we have a bingo fundraiser at Vinneys Bar in Drip Road Stirling. It is open to all ( you needn’t be a member to come and play along) and helps us replenish the war chest. 7.30pm £1 entry and Tea and coffee provided. Bring a prize too if you can!
A fuller list of events will be on the website very soon which will be getting a revamp in the near future.
Names were put forward for the non-office bearers in the Branch Executive and if I understood the discussion properly there will be a paper ballot on the places next month.
We also had lots of positive feedback from members who went to the party conference, which was once again a hugely popular and well-attended event with most meetings full to capacity, refuting any suggestion that might be made in the mainstream press that popularity for Independence and the SNP are on the wane. Far from it! Any errors or omissions get in touch as your humble scribe forgot to take his phone and audio recording app last night!