Siobhan Tolland: Why it's more than bluster when the Tories spin that they're 'winning' in Scotland

CommonSpace columnist Siobhan Tolland suspects the Tories have a much more long-term strategy than opponents realise

I HAVE been thinking about this high pitched, salivating media hype about how the Tories won the Scottish local council elections. 

I had friends contacting me all worried that the Tories were on the rise again. The Wee Ginger Dug tells us that the hype was so bad that a BBC guest thought the Tories had taken Glasgow - a perception that wasn’t all that unusual. If you didn’t live in Scotland you really would think the Tories had won.

I don’t want to talk about how utterly untrue this is. We already know that. But the political theorist and Nazi Germany exile Hannah Arendt keeps ringing in my ears, as a way of understanding exactly what was behind this Tory media frenzy of Conservative victory.

I think, if we look at Theresa May’s language and actions since she came in to power, we know exactly what the intention is. In non-totalitarian language it translates as: democracy is dead.

Arendt wrote about totalitarianism and I discovered her when people were talking about Donald Trump. She explained that in Nazi Germany, the liberal opposition was ill equipped to fight the Nazis because it never understood the language of totalitarianism.

The language runs like this. When the state made statements and pushed propaganda about the Jewish community, the liberal opposition would fact-check and offer evidence that X information was simply not true.

What it didn’t understand, she goes on to explain, is that the propaganda was never intended to be a statement of fact, it was meant to be a prophecy: an outline of what the Nazis intended to do.

The particularly chilling example she chose was one where Hitler predicted that Jewish financiers hurling more people into a world war would result in the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. "Translated into nontotalitarian language, this meant: I intend to make war and I intend to kill the Jews of Europe."

The language became a window into future actions as well as offering just enough credibility to push these actions through. Afterwards, this language became the alibi: it was always meant to happen, we said so.

One of May’s first acts as prime minister was to force Brexit through by ignoring parliament. It was only the Supreme Court that forced the Tories back into the democratic process.

Looking at the coverage of the Scottish elections through Arendt’s lens is an extremely enlightening process, then, because we see a much more sinister strategy at play. The line that the Tories were the real winners should not be treated as a statement of fact. We should it as a window into what they intend to do.

What is the intention behind the continuous notion that the Tories are the real victors in Scotland? That Ruth Davidson is more popular than Nicola Sturgeon? That Theresa May is more in touch with the people of Scotland than Sturgeon is? That there is no appetite for a second Scottish independence referendum?

I think, if we look at May’s language and actions since she came in to power, we know exactly what the intention is. In non-totalitarian language it translates as: democracy is dead.

One of May’s first acts as prime minister was to force Brexit through by ignoring parliament. It was only the Supreme Court that forced the Tories back into the democratic process. This tells us very clearly that democracy was never intended to be part of May’s post-Brexit government.

Her General Election announcement continued this as she complained that the opposition was getting in her way. The Daily Mail expressed her sentiments more forcefully when it demanded, "crush the saboteurs". 

This tells us very clearly that democracy was never intended to be part of May’s post-Brexit government.

Courted, private dinnered and headhunted by Downing Street, the Daily Mail has become the unofficial yet unfettered translator of the May government. And in that, we should be scared about what the government’s intentions are on 9 June.

Democracy is sabotaging May’s government. This includes the SNP - a party that intends to break away from UK, and a party with massive, and increasingly entrenched, power across all three of Scotland’s political institutions. This is now seen as an open threat to the union.

The narrative that the Tories were the winners and that the SNP is declining, then, is not based on fact. This tells us what they intend to do. This is the power grab Sturgeon is talking about. This is the language that lays the groundwork for smashing the Scottish democratic structures and imposing Tory rule.

The Tories were what we wanted anyway, right? You can see this clearly with the obsession with polls about the referendum. We are constantly hearing that the people of Scotland don’t want a referendum, and that the polls tell us so.

Putting aside whether this is accurate or not, these polls have been used to legitimise over-riding the Scottish democratic process.

Her General Election announcement continued this as she complained that the opposition was getting in her way. The Daily Mail expressed her sentiments more forcefully when it demanded, "crush the saboteurs".

Andrew Marr’s interview with Alex Salmond 10 days after the Scottish Parliament approved a second referendum revealed this intent very clearly. He noted that May can say "now is not the time for a referendum" because that’s what the polls say. The fact that the Scottish Parliament had already approved a referendum had no bearing, for Marr, in the interview, because it seems it has no bearing in the political process.

Polls were central to this debate, not the voice of the Scottish Parliament. Can you imagine a Westminster vote being ignored because the polls said differently? It is the political equivalent of rescinding on Brexit because the polls said 'remain'. This is a wilful ignoring of a democratic mandate.

But the polls themselves were never relevant. It was just a means to justify ignoring democracy. When you hear the media and the Tories say "but the polls said there isn’t an appetite for a referendum" then you should be translating this into: "F*** the democratic process!"

We shouldn’t underestimate the constant stream of the so-called Tory victory being hurled across the union. The narrative that Scotland loves the Tories is not just wishful or desperate thinking, it is laying the groundwork for things to come.

So when May talks about the opposition getting in the way of the strong and stable government and that the Tories really are what people want in Scotland, we need to translate this very clearly: 'We are going to smash the democratic process into a million pieces and impose our fascist will. And we are starting with Scotland.'

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Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:51

The SNP won around 35% of the seats. In ordinary politics, that is "winning". But the SNP don't do ordinary politics. The only thing they care about is independence. So therefore 35% is "losing".

If the SNP want to accept that the independence matter is settled for a generation then they'll be judged just like any other party.

But so long as they persist in their obsession any time they (or they plus their poodles the Greens) poll less than 60%, it indicates failure, because independence cannot succeed unless at least that percentage of Scots support it.


Fri, 05/12/2017 - 17:46

May is doing what Thatcher did: defining the terms of the debate, creating demons and scapegoats. Remember "TINA"? The danger lies in being sucked into the debate on their terms.

The only thing I would disagree with is that we have a democracy to be "F*****". We have an oligarchy of the wealthy whom we obligingly legitimise every so often in a totally undemocratic FPTP system (supposedly every 5 years, but that has been trashed already), after which we, the people, take no further part in the political process.

This needs to change, but I don't see how without some kind of revolution.


Fri, 05/12/2017 - 18:28

100% Correct...The Tories say anything they like. The constant talk of Independence referendum by them is designed to get people saying... "Oh for goodness sake is there nothing else"... and it has had some success. Then in rides Ruth on her white charger telling the election weary she will put this independence nonsense to bed once and for all. For this Ruth is given a safe seat in the leafy suburbs of Surrey where she can live out her life in the bosom of her beloved Tory cronies.... Let's hope that the Scottish people can see through this thoroughly despicable brand of Tory rule.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 01:48

And yet MauriceBishop, we saw 62% of the vote in favour of Scotland remaining in the EU.
Independence will succeed if the figure supporting is plus 50% because that is a simple majority.
Your ad hominem about the SNP is simply boring..... "The only" If Scots believed that, they would not have re-elected the SNP to Government with a mandate for a new Referendum in their Manifesto...... but then, when the facts don't suit, let's just ignore them....... Next you'll be telling us about the "day"


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 06:55

Could we stop bringing the Nazis into every discussion about politics, please? It is hyperbole, to say the very least.
It must be possible to write an article about people you disagree with without mentioning Hitler.

madrid Mac

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 09:27

We know who their storm troopers in Scotland are going to be too. OO masquerading as red and blue unionists are now "officially" in Scottish councils and with the mooth directing the flute bands she'll continue to drum up hatred and division.

The BREXIT result was a saving grace for us Scottish democrats but it was a confirmation for them that Scotland, unlike E&W, couldn't be turned to fascism through racism alone. With the job being done in E&W the kippers will return to the Tories in the south and there'll be massive gains for the tories there leaving bigotry and sectarianism to do their job here. We don't need to hate Poles or Pakis here, we hate each other enough.

56 SNP MPs didn't stop EVEL being introduced to further the demise of democracy. 59 SNP constituency seats won't stop their fascist march to BREXIT. The dissolution of Holyrood will be first on the agenda even before the ink is dry.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 11:25

Deary me - MauriceBishop has perpetrated the lie.
Despite the clear comparisons with history, and the excellent description of the Tory agenda, Maurice has failed to appreciate what has been said.
To be honest, folks like him are already a lost cause, groomed into hatred for the SNP no matter what evidence comes forward to show they are victimised for political advantage by the Tories.
Maurice is a Tory foot soldier. He can be powered up and set off as a waddling proclaimer of false news as he beats his wee drum - constantly spreading the myth until his Duracell batteries run down.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 12:10

Of course the Conservative party didn't win. They more than doubled their number of councillors. Instead of even bothering to discuss that, the author disappeared up Hitler's arse. Call me a heretic, but personally I think that Hitler is completely irrelevant to the local council elections.

Brian Powell

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 13:02

Your really need to be telling the Scottish Labour Party this, we already know.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 15:57

A Remain vote is not a vote for the SNP or a vote for Independence. If you doubt that, how could the 62% vote in the EU referendum turn into less than 40% for the combination of the SNP and the Greens in the local elections.

If Yes managed to scrape by with 50% plus 1 vote in a dodgy rerun of a referendum Independence would not succeed. If you can't get 60% or more of the population to buy into the idea, it will be chaos. Never forget how easy it would be for people and capital to move out of the jurisdiction while they wait for the dust to settle.

If Scots believed that, they would not have re-elected the SNP to Government with a mandate for a new Referendum in their Manifesto

They didn't. Here is a link to an official SNP manifesto 2016.
It says: "We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if it is clear that more than half of the people in Scotland want independence. " That clear evidence is lacking, so therefore no mandate.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 19:40

Independence is the central policy o the SNP; no the anerly policy, but the main yin.

Winnin is the same fur ony pairty; it disnae maitter whit their main policy is.

An pairties abandonnin their main policy isnae a wey fur thaim tae be better acceptit; it's a wey fur thaim tae be seen as treacherous.

Ony referendum wad say the winnin side is the side that gits 50%+1. 60% wad be braw, but it's mair than eneuch.


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 21:10

Maurice, stop perpetuating the lie about the SNP Manifesto. I pointed out to you in another post that they also included the "material change...such as a vote to leave the EU", so there is a mandate.

Perhaps, Maurice, you could tell us what it is you like about staying under the rule of the Tories. Is it the Rape clause? Or perhaps the Bedroom Tax? Or is it the confiscation of mobility vehicles or maybe it's the way they have cut taxes for the obscenely rich and wealthy, or the way they have hammered the poor, the unemployed, the vulnerable; or maybe it's the proliferation of food banks thanks to Tory policies; or perhaps it's the refusal to accept any (yes, not a single one) amendments to the Scotland Act from the SNP; or cutting assistance to renewable energy; or maybe you think handing the Chinese and French a free lunch for n years at Hinkley or maybe you like the idea of a train ride on HS2; or maybe it's the intention to scrap the ECHR or demolishing the NHS or stopping immigrants; or maybe it's the way they've morphed into UKIP.

I think Scotland deserves better than Tory "values".


Sat, 05/13/2017 - 23:56

@Geejay. It isn't a myth. They produced different versions of
their manifesto and in some mentions there was a claim
about "material change" and in some there is not.

Here is a link to one version of their manifesto.
Tell us all on which page of this version
the "material change" claim appears.

You can't because it doesn't.

Therefore, by your own standard
there is no manifesto.

Furthermore, even if they had bothered to be
consistent across all versions there would
not be a mandate. The decision of 2 million
voters to remain in the UK on an 85% turnout
cannot be undone by the 1 million votes to
elect a minority nationalist government on
a 55% turnout. Especially given that the
3.6 million people who voted in 2014 did so
having been told by Nicola Sturgeon that
their votes would settle the matter for a

I want to stay in the Union because
independence would be economic suicide
that lead to the depopulation of Scotland.


Sun, 05/14/2017 - 11:19

Have you actually read the above - or as you so sheep-like you don't need to and just obey your masters?


Sun, 05/14/2017 - 11:23

Again this is simply conditioned nonsense - don't be a sheep Maurice!
De-population has never gone away and persists - this is because the Tory landed, 'elite' types have NO INCENTIVE to change to accommodate and improve the opportunities for the 99% of us - and you baa-baa your consent to this every time you vote for the Cruel Party.
Don't be a sheep Maurice.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 17:41

Well let's not forget that the really significant "smashing of democracy" in Scotland is when our individual rights to participate in a democracy are violated by police and courts governed by the SNP Scottish government.

When police smashed my door down to arrest me and seize my computer for what I typed on line in the run up to the indyref in July 2014, it was First Minister Salmond who was responsible, not Prime Minister Cameron.

When I was subsequently prosecuted, held in a police station for a week-end for allegedly breaching bail conditions, found guilty and fined, it was First Minister Sturgeon who was responsible, not Prime Minister May.

Let's not forget either the craven surrender by the SNP government to the UK government in critical matters.

The Scottish government's bad fiscal framework agreement of February 2016 - which denies borrowing powers was an agreement, it was not an imposition by the UK but an agreement with the UK which Sturgeon willingly signed up to, instead of making a political issue out of the need for more borrowing for investment for growth.

What's to regret more about the rise of the Scottish Conservatives, is that Scottish Labour hasn't been able to hold on to its relatively larger share of the unionist vote.

Scottish Labour has failed to exploit issues like the fiscal framework to blame both the SNP and Tories for austerity in Scotland.

Dugdale and Ballie have offered poor leadership on the economy and that's what the progressive left in Scotland really ought to be concerned about.

Scots can defend our democracy OK but we have to know who the enemy is and who our effective allies are - and neither Sturgeon nor Dugdale are helping all that much - neither has tackled the police state abuses and neither has tackled the economic failure caused by the fiscal framework - both have allowed Davidson and the Scottish Tories to get away with political murder.

Peter Dow is a Scottish scientist and a republican socialist whose legal human rights are cruelly violated by the police and courts in Aberdeen, where he lives.

Peter Dow's political defence blog publishes the truth about the wrongful and unjust royalist arrests, prosecutions, convictions and punishments he endures.


Sun, 05/14/2017 - 19:20

Its the economy, stupid.
WHY HAS NO ONE HEARD OF "Beyond GERS" and The White Paper Project?


Sun, 05/14/2017 - 20:35

Nicola Sturgeon has no idea if people will be better off in an independent Scotland. As she admitted in her STV interview last month, she called for the second referendum without knowing the answers to even the most basic economic questions. In fact, she doesn't even think they are important - she outsourced them to Andrew Wilson and didn't even wait to hear back from him before deciding.

Which is fully in keeping with her position that "The case for full self-government ultimately transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends."


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 12:53

Accurate figures, Maurice. They don't exist for Scotland. Ian Lang said it quite succinctly when he proposed GERS as a way to "undermine the other parties". If the figures didn't exist when he said it then how did he know? And if the figures DID exist then why not just publish 'em? Why invent the woolly monster of GERS?

Does the murkiness of the "notional" entries in GERS not bother you? All the grey areas? Surely, even if you yourself don't mind being kept in the dark, you can understand that Scots like myself are sceptical about Westminster's sincerity regarding Scotland's finances. You might be happy as a mushroom, Maurice, but I'm pretty frustrated at being kept in the dark, and even more frustrated when people then sycophantically blame the side that's not only in the dark, but powerless to change it.

There's been a measure of antagonism building for the last few years over the intransigent mentality of those who project GERS as indisputable fact and who then sneeringly point at inadequacies while denying any involvement in their cause. Worse that it often comes from Scots, gloating over their own shitness, wtf. I think it's this attitude, more than anything else, that will push enough Scots into believing in the abilities of their countrymen. It's what tuned me into the debate in the first place, and that was well into the 2014 Indy campaign so it's a fairly recent thing for me at least.

For people like me, the argument has shifted from "COULD Scotland be independent" to "SHOULD Scotland be independent". Many are at least starting to consider "Yes"


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 14:50

@MikMac - What you claim about what someone said decades ago is irrelevant. GERS has been produced by the SNP-led Scottish Government for 10 years now. If the figures are inaccurate, it is because the SNP are either incompetent or knowingly foisting a fraud on the public without even a word of warning.

And before you put all your eggs in the "GERS is murky" basket: how do you know the figures aren't even WORSE than portrayed, making independence even more suicidal than it already seems?


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:23

Maurice, 40% of Scotland's spending is reserved to the UK Government. The UK Government tells the Scottish Government what's been spent, and on what, and those figures then go into GERS. I'll say that again - 40% of the figures in GERS come from the UK Government.

You asked "how do you know the figures aren't even WORSE than portrayed." At least you're now admitting that the figures aren't accurate. We don't know if the true figures are better, worse, or indifferent. This is my whole point. When one side refuses to give accurate information does that not tell you something?


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:08

And I'll say it again: GERS is produced by the SNP.

Like everyone who is familiar with the standards that govern the gathering and preparation of statistics, I accept GERS as a sensible estimate of Scotland's fiscal position. The Fraser of Allander Institute is of the same opinion.

You, however, are convinced that they are hopeless, but yet you are equally convinced that if the truth were really known it would support the cause of independence.

This is, of course, just fantasy thought.

You engage in it because you understand how weak the economic case for independence is. You can't engage in it so you have to wish it away by pretending that it is simply unknowable.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 17:14

And I'll say it again - 40% of the figures come from the UK Government.

Maurice, why are you so scared of the true figures?

Cameron used a similar obstruct-ignore tactic during IndyRef#1. He refused to ask the EU for its position on iScotland's EU membership. All he had to do was ask. But he chose not to. He didn't want the Scottish people to know where they stood because the uncertainty suited his narrative. It's the same with Scotland's finances. The UK Government doesn't want anyone to know what the figures truly are. They could be great, or they could be crap. The real-time status is of less importance to the UK Government than the ready-to-wield big-stick of jeopardy. Surely you can see that something's wrong with this picture, Maurice? You're not that obtuse, surely.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 20:43

Yes: 40% of the figures come from the UK Government.

If the SNP believe those figures are bent but produce GERS every year anyway, they are inflicting a fraud on the public.

We do know "what the figures truly are", and the only people who are feart are the separatists.

If you want to continue to brief against GERS you are attacking the basic competency and integrity of the SNP and the entire separatist movement. Because I take down by well-thumbed copy of the 2014 independence White Paper and I turn to page 67 and there I find:

"GERS is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances"


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 20:50

Maurice, Can I suggest you have a read at an article by John S Warren on Bella Caledonia:
And Prof Richard Murphy who has several articles on GERS:


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 21:26

Geejay, can I suggest you read the work of people who actually know what they are talking about and who are not simply making excuses to cover the independence movement's embarrassment?


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 21:45

You're starting to sound cornered now Maurice. The Scottish government doesn't have any option but to use the data provided it by the UK Government - it's the only data available so it HAS to use it. That's what makes GERS authoritative, not that it's complete. That doesn't make that data verbose or extensive or even accurate. And THAT'S the problem. This gets raised time and time and time again. I shouldn't be having to explain this stuff to you.

The figures are not specific enough - note the qualifier: enough. The GERS figures could be an ideal tool to gauge Scotland's fiscal position as part of the union, but the fact that some of the figures are so subjective means that substantive conclusions cannot be drawn. That's a problem - too many of the figures coming from the UK Government are notional. And because they are notional they are exposed to potential influence in their determination. If someone in the UK Government really really wanted Scotland's finances to look sluggish, they can do it with a tweak to a notion here or a tweak to a notion there. And if you think that's too "conspiracy theory" just remember that the UK Government has been caught out with GERS figures in the past when their notions were clearly skewed. We're talking about figures in the hundreds of thousands and even millions ("forgetting" £150m of TV licence revenues is my particular favourite). Ian Lang knew what he was talking about way back then.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 21:55

Maurice, I did read it some weeks ago and was not impressed with the depth of argument and the numerous questionable and unexamined assumptions it contained. I look forward to your critique of the 2 authors I referenced.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 21:55

I still sound like I did at the outset: secure in the knowledge that the economic case for independence is so poor that the separatists have no choice but to engage in various rhetorical strategies for avoiding it.

The Scottish Government produces GERS. It doesn't have to use the UK Government's data - it could substitute its own. In fact, it doesn't have to produce GERS at all. Here are words of the Fraser of Allander Institute:

It’s a National Statistics publication. This means that the statistics – and how they are presented – have been independently judged to be methodologically sound and produced free of political interference. It is published at the discretion of the Scottish Government – no-one ‘forces’ it to be produced.

Like a dog to vomit, you return to Ian Lang because you don't know how to else to deal with your cognitive dissonance on this matter. When GERS seemed to support the cause of independence, where was all this talk about it being just "notional" and how "substantive conclusions cannot be drawn"?


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 21:57

@ Geejay: They are both embarrassing exercises in excuse-making.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 22:23

At the risk of repeating myself, Maurice, the GERS figures are the best figures available. For the Scottish Government to throw it's toys out of the pram and simply refuse to publish anything would be like, er, throwing its toys outta the pram.

Again, the GERS figures are the best thing that's available. That doesn't mean that the figures are complete. Yes, I know I'm repeating myself but you keep ignoring what I say so I kinda have to, fella.

Btw you've already conceded that 40% of the spend data comes from the UK Government. It can only come from the UK Government because the UK Government are the ones who spent it, so it kinda knows better than anyone else. If the Scottish Government used different figures it would give a balance sheet that's at odds with the UK Government. There'd be two sets of accounts, completely at odds. Since the UK Government spent the money the Scottish Government is kinda forced to take the UK Government's word for it on how much, including the notional figures.

Are we now at the round-in-circles stage? It feels like we're at the round-in-circles stage.


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 22:39

They are the best figures that are available. They are regarded by non-partisan professionals as a production of high quality.

They used to be regarded by the separatists as

the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances

But that was back when they were thought to support the economic case for independence. No talk of them being being just "notional" or how "substantive conclusions cannot be drawn" back then.

Now, however, just four years later, people like you feel compelled to expend electron after electron saying "nothing to see here, move along"....


Tue, 05/16/2017 - 23:36

"They are the best figures that are available" Something we agree on. We know that we agree on this point because I've already stated it.

But once again, repeating myself, the data uses notional figures too heavily - things that are calculated from formula when they could be recorded discretely, and have then been shown historically (by non-partisan economists, no less) to distort the true position of Scotland's finances, sometimes to the tune of millions of pounds. This needs to change or the GERS figures will forever be questioned as to their veracity and their effect on Scotland's actual financial position. And I know you really don't like to hear this but the original idea behind GERS really actually was to undermine. It's an undeniable truth. It is. So it's important to not forget that this was built into the model on purpose.

The thing is that if the notional issues and the accounting issues were sorted out then GERS could be relied upon by all sides. While there's doubt, GERS will always be in question. Blame Ian Lang for this, not me. The UK Government seems in no hurry to sort this out though. This is suspicious, but, again, as I've already stated, all this does is call into question the accuracy of the data. All we can say is that the data may not be accurate. Or maybe it is. Or it could be miles out. Who knows. This is my whole point - we simply do not know how reliable the data is, all because of a bunch of figures that have been shown historically to be spurious (by economists, remember). Why not just sort it out? It's quite frustrating to have to keep repeating this point. Otherwise, GERS is dandy.

I'm going to bed. If you choose to reply then please leave out any ad hominem. Na, fuckit, go for it. I probably won't be back to read it anyway - you're repeating yourself, I'm repeating myself.... [grates teeth]


Wed, 05/17/2017 - 13:57

"the data uses notional figures too heavily - things that are calculated from formula when they could be recorded discretely, and have then been shown historically (by non-partisan economists, no less) to distort the true position of Scotland's finances, sometimes to the tune of millions of pounds. "

I don't recall any such complaints back in 2014 when GERS was being touted as the basis of the case in favour of independence.

Yes, GERS uses estimates. So what? Quoting the head of the Fraser of Allander Institute:

"It’s important to note that – on the spending side at least – most of the figures aren’t estimated...But it is the case that for most revenues, estimation is needed. People are right to highlight the need to improve the coverage of Scottish economic statistics. Although great strides have been in recent years via the Scottish National Accounts Project, more work needs to be done. But it’s wrong to dismiss GERS out of hand simply because they rely, in part, on estimation. Firstly, estimates are not unusual in economic statistics. Scottish GDP figures are based entirely on estimation, as are the productivity, trade, employment,unemployment and national income statistics. And Scotland is not unique, all countries rely on estimates – including UK GDP! Secondly, there’s a good reason (under the current constitutional settlement) why estimation is used – collecting data for the purposes of a statistical publication can only be justified if costs are proportionate. Collecting real-time data on alcohol duties for example, would require monitoring each and every alcohol sale in Scotland (and cross-border sales). This would be required for every betting and gaming transaction, tobacco purchase, when you filled up your car with fuel and so on.

The key issue therefore, is whether or not these estimates are robust.

In my view, the methods used are the best available. You are welcome to agree or disagree – the statisticians are fully transparent about what they use so you can check for yourself.

It’s also possible to do a number of checks to reassure yourself on the numbers...So alternative figures and estimates can be arrived at – and for some individual taxes like corporation tax the estimates are more uncertain – but any changes are small and don’t alter the big picture...GERS is not perfect – it doesn’t claim to be. But even significant differences in estimation – and well outside that which could be considered statistically reasonable – don’t change the overall headline figures."

You have no idea what you are talking about. You simple know that GERS has turned against you so you need to find some reason to CONVINCE YOURSELF that you can switch to just ignoring it.

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