This report is the twenty-fourth in the series of official published estimates of expenditure and revenue balances of the public sector in Scotland.
GERS is classified as National Statistics and produced in accordance with the principles of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. More information about National Statistics, including the latest assessment report on GERS (number 274), is available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
The GERS content and methodology is continually reviewed in conjunction with users. The latest consultation about this edition of GERS was carried out between June and July 2017. The Scottish Government response has been published alongside this publication.
Feedback from users of the publication is welcome. A correspondence address is available in the back leaf of the publication. Comments can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What Questions Does GERS Address?
GERS addresses three questions about Scotland's public sector accounts for a given year:
1. What revenues were raised in Scotland?
2. How much did the country pay for the public services that were consumed?
3. To what extent did the revenues raised cover the costs of these public services?
Public sector revenue is estimated where a financial burden is imposed on residents and enterprises in Scotland.
Under current UK budgetary accounting procedures, separate figures for each country and region of the UK are not available for most revenues. As a result, Scottish public sector revenue is estimated by considering each revenue stream separately. Where Scottish data are unavailable, GERS estimates revenue using a set of apportionment methodologies, refined over a number of years following consultation with and feedback from users.
The methodology note on the GERS website provides a detailed discussion of the methodologies and datasets used.
Public sector expenditure is estimated on the basis of spending incurred for the benefit of residents of Scotland. That is, a particular public sector expenditure is apportioned to a region if the benefit of the expenditure is thought to accrue to residents of that region.
This is a different measure from total public expenditure in Scotland. For most expenditure, spending for or in Scotland will be similar. For example, the vast majority of health expenditure by NHS Scotland occurs in Scotland and is for patients resident in Scotland. Therefore, the in and for approaches should yield virtually identical assessments of expenditure. However, for expenditure where the final impact is more widespread, such as defence, an assessment of 'who benefits' depends upon the nature of the benefit being assessed. Where there are differences between the for and in approaches, GERS estimates Scottish expenditure using a set of apportionment methodologies, refined over a number of years following consultation with and feedback from users.
The for approach considers the location of the recipients of services or transfers that government expenditure finances, irrespective of where the expenditure takes place. For example, with respect to defence expenditure, as the service provided is a national 'public good', the for methodology operates on the premise that the entire UK population benefits from the provision of a national defence service. Accordingly, under the for methodology, national defence expenditure is apportioned across the UK on a population basis.
The methodology note on the GERS website provides a detailed discussion of the methodologies and datasets used to undertake this task.
The Data Sources
The source of the revenue data in GERS is ONS's Public Sector Finances, which provides disaggregated figures relating to UK public sector revenue.
The primary data sources used to estimate Scottish public sector expenditure in GERS are Scottish Government accounting data, and HM Treasury's Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses and the supporting Country and Regional Analysis (CRA).
GERS also makes use of the estimates of Scottish Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in current market prices published in the Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (QNAS).
Additional Information on the GERS Website
The GERS website contains a number of additional analyses of Scotland's public sector finances. In addition to containing copies of the GERS report from 1990-91 onwards, the website also contains the tables underpinning this edition of GERS in Excel form and statistics providing a consistent time series of Scotland's public sector finances from 1998-99 to 2016-17.
The Office for National Statistics published their first estimate of regional public sector finances in May 2017. The Scottish Government, other devolved administrations, ONS, and HMRC are committed to working together to reconcile and, where possible, align methodologies for estimating receipts for the countries and regions of the UK. Further details on this work can be seen in Box 1.1 in Chapter 1.
The GERS website can be accessed via http://www.gov.scot/gers.
Comparisons to other countries and regions of the UK
Comparisons of Scottish revenue and expenditure with other parts of the UK are no longer included in GERS, as due to the earlier publication timetable data are not available to produce figures for 2016-17 for each country and region of the UK. Users who are interested in these comparisons are advised to use the Country and Regional Public Sector Finances publication published by the ONS. A comparison between the ONS and GERS figures for Scotland is provided in Box 1.1.
The Scotland figures in the main tables in GERS are produced to be comparable to the UK figures presented in the ONS Public Sector Finances and the OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook. These report for the public sector as a whole on a financial year basis. In contrast, international organizations such as the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report countries' finances on a calendar year basis and for the government sector only. Figures for Scotland on this basis are available in Table A.4.