About GDP

Background information and guidance on the Scottish Government's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP).

What does GDP measure?

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a way to measure output of an economy and to compare it to other economies. The change in GDP is the main indicator of economic growth. When external commentators describe the growth or reduction in the size of the economy, it is the change in GDP that they are referring to.

GDP is produced in line with internationally agreed standards.  This helps to ensure that the results are comparable across countries.

Does the Scottish GDP growth rate include the output from the North Sea oil and gas sector?

The first estimate of GDP gives the growth rate, in real terms, is for what is commonly referred to as the “onshore economy”.  This means it excludes oil and gas extraction in the North Sea. The publication does however include the activities of sub-contractors and the wider oil and gas supply chain in Scotland which supports the activity of operators in the North Sea.

Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (published at the same time as the second estimate of GDP) publishes figures on the cash value of Scotland's GDP which do include oil and gas extraction in Scottish adjacent waters. This is commonly referred to as the 'total' value of GDP, as opposed to the 'onshore' value. 

Do the GDP figures take account of inflation?

Yes. All growth rates in the Scottish Quarterly GDP statistics have been adjusted to have the effect of price changes removed. They therefore represent change in the volume of output, also known as ‘real terms’ change.

Is the cash value of Scottish GDP available?

Yes. The Scottish Government’s Quarterly National Accounts for Scotland (QNAS) publication provides cash values for Scottish GDP. QNAS includes the cash values of GDP both including and excluding offshore oil and gas activity.

What data are used to measure Scottish GDP?

The main source of data for the private sector is the Monthly Business Survey (MBS) which is carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This survey provides detailed company level information for a large sample of businesses in different industries and of different sizes from across Scotland and the rest of Britain.

In addition, where available we use a range of Scottish data sources relating to specific industries or companies, as well as employment and activity data for the Scottish public sector.

How can I find out more about the data sources and methodologies used?

The methodology guide for GDP gives information on how we calculate the figures as well as planned future publication dates. The sources catalogue, which gives details of the sources and weights used to calculate the figures in the headline Quarterly GDP.

For further information on Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product publication please contact the GDP team (gdp_stats@scotland.gov.scot).

Are the figures consistent with UK headline estimates?

Yes. They are both produced in line with the same international standards and use many of the same data sources.

Who produces the Scottish GDP statistics?

Scottish GDP statistics are produced by statisticians in the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser in the Scottish Government.

If Scottish GDP is estimated, does this mean it is unreliable?

No. All countries’ economic statistics are based on estimation techniques. This is to ensure they are produced in a timely manner, and in a way which doesn’t place undue burden on companies.  A range of statistical techniques are employed to ensure estimates are not biased and are based on data which is representative of the economy as a whole.

Why are GDP estimates subject to revisions?

Revisions are primarily due to new data becoming available, or changes to the underlying methodology used to calculate GDP.  

For example, a company may provide updated data on its operations as more information becomes available to it. Likewise, price deflators (which are used to account for inflation) are sometimes revised. Revisions also occur when new data sources are found or new methodologies are introduced.  As new international standards are agreed on how GDP should be calculated, this can also cause estimates to be revised to ensure they continue to meet international best practice.

How are the GDP statistics for Scotland quality assured?

The development and publication of Scottish GDP statistics is managed by a team of Scottish Government statisticians. Data area interrogated and queried, with a strong emphasis on statistical, analytical and economic debate throughout the production process.

The GDP team liaises with colleagues in ONS to ensure that comparative methods are used in Scotland and the UK.

Changes in methodologies or data sources used are discussed with key users. The Scottish Economic Statistics Consultation Group (SESCG) meets annually to discuss and endorse such changes. Minutes of these meeting are publically available.

Where can I see Scotch Whisky in the Scottish GDP tables?

The manufacture of Scotch Whisky is included under Food products, beverages and tobacco which can be seen in Table 4. All Scotch Whisky is considered to be produced in Scotland, reflecting its Geographical Indication, regardless of the location of the headquarters of the companies in question.

How does the export of Scotch Whisky affect the calculation of Scottish GDP?

The calculation of the contribution of whisky to GDP is based on where it is produced. The location of port of export, or the fact that a good produced is then exported, does not affect the GDP calculation.


If you have any questions about this site, please contact the National Accounts Unit as follows:

Phone: Sandy Stewart - Statistician (Head of Unit) - 0131 244 2825

Email: economic.statistics@gov.scot


National Accounts Unit
Office of the Chief Economic Adviser
Room 4WR
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh, EH1 3DG

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