This report is the twenty-first in the series of official published estimates of expenditure and revenue balances of the public sector in Scotland.
The Aims and Objectives
The aim of GERS is to enhance public understanding of fiscal issues in Scotland. The primary objective is to estimate a set of public sector accounts for Scotland through detailed analysis of official UK and Scottish Government finance statistics. GERS estimates the contribution of revenue raised in Scotland towards the goods and services provided for the benefit of the people of Scotland. The report is designed to allow users to understand and analyse Scotland's fiscal position under different scenarios within the current constitutional framework.
GERS captures the entire public sector in Scotland and includes activity by each of the constituent parts of the public sector: central government, local government and public corporations. In addition to providing an analysis of aggregate expenditure and revenue, the report contains a detailed breakdown according to individual expenditure and revenue components.
National Statistics in GERS
All expenditure and revenue data in GERS are classified as National Statistics. National Statistics are those figures which come within the scope of the principles of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. The Code seeks to ensure that National Statistics will be valued for their relevance, integrity, quality and accessibility. More information about National Statistics is available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
The UK Statistics Authority is the independent body responsible for assessing whether statistics comply with the Code. GERS was reassessed as part of the UK Statistics Authority's 2013-14 work programme. The assessment report (number 274) was published in February 2014. The statistics in GERS are found to be readily accessible, produced according to sound methods and managed impartially and objectively in the public interest. The Authority confirmed GERS' designation as National Statistics. Full report: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/assessment/assessment-reports/index.html
In line with the Code of Practice, the content of and methodology used in GERS is continually reviewed in conjunction with users, through the Scottish Economic Statistics Consultation Group, forums like ScotStat, the Statistics Consultation Network, and through formal consultation. The latest consultation about this edition of GERS was carried out between November 2014 and January 2015. A summary of responses was published in early February, and a fuller response is published alongside this edition of GERS.
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: email@example.com
Unlike some countries, the UK does not produce intra‑UK fiscal accounts. GERS therefore provides an estimated set of public sector fiscal accounts for Scotland.
In the absence of formal intra-UK fiscal accounts, estimating a set of accounts for Scotland raises two key practical issues:
- Firstly, there is no formally agreed set of accounting concepts and definitions for the formulation of UK country or regional fiscal accounts.
- Secondly, a number of key elements of underlying data necessary for constructing such accounts are not available at the UK country or regional level.
As such, GERS develops a framework for estimating public sector revenue raised in Scotland and expenditure for Scotland. Where Scottish data are unavailable, GERS estimates expenditure and revenue using a set of appropriate apportionment methodologies, refined over a number of years following consultation with and feedback from users. The accounts are estimated for Scotland on the basis of the national accounting standards adopted by the UK Government: the European System of Accounts 2010.
What Questions Does GERS Address?
GERS fundamentally 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 full range of public services that were consumed?
3. To what extent did the revenues raised cover the costs of these public services?
The headline estimates of Scottish public sector revenue and expenditure in GERS embrace two key principles:
1. Public sector revenue is estimated for taxes where a financial burden is imposed on residents and enterprises in Scotland
2. Public sector expenditure is estimated on the basis of spending incurred for the benefit of residents and enterprises in Scotland
Both issues are discussed in detail below.
Public sector revenue is estimated for taxes where a financial burden is imposed on residents and enterprises in Scotland.
In GERS the estimation of public sector revenues is based on an assessment according to the 'who pays' principle. This concerns the identification of the location of the source of public sector revenue. In GERS, the 'who pays' principle is based upon the residential location of where the revenue is raised.
For a variety of practical and theoretical reasons, estimating revenue for individual countries and regions of the UK is generally more difficult than estimating expenditure. Revenue is generally collected on a UK basis, whereas the benefits of expenditure are generally targeted on a regional basis. Under current UK budgetary accounting procedures, separately identified revenue figures for each country and region of the UK are not available.
As a result, Scottish public sector revenue is estimated by considering each revenue stream separately. Annex A and the more detailed methodology note on the GERS website provide 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.
The estimation of regional public sector expenditure is based on an assessment according to the 'who benefits' principle. That is, a particular public sector expenditure is apportioned to a region if the benefit of the service or transfer derived from the expenditure is thought to accrue to residents of that region. Assessing the regional dimension of the 'who benefits' principle is a complex task. This is especially the case in countries with closely integrated markets, significant inter-regional spillovers and mobile factors of production.
In attempting to determine the regional dimension of public sector expenditure, it is possible to classify each element of expenditure using two approaches:
- Expenditure for a region: where spending is allocated to a given region if the benefit of the service or transfer derived from the expenditure is thought to accrue to residents and enterprises of that region;
- Expenditure in a region: where spending is allocated to the region in which the expenditure actually took place.
An example of the difference between the in and for approach can help clarify the distinction. Consider the case of government funding for a national museum. Here the in approach would associate all government spending on the museum with the region in which the museum is located. However, the for approach would consider the beneficiaries of the service provided; that is, it would consider where the visitors and other users of the museum were located, measuring the spending as spread across the regions where the users live.
For most elements of expenditure, estimates of 'who benefits' based upon the in and for approaches will yield similar results. 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 'who benefits'. 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.
The objective of GERS is to estimate a set of public sector accounts for Scotland. On the expenditure side, it therefore identifies the expenditure in a given year that was incurred for the full range of public services that were provided for the people of Scotland.
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.
An assessment of the more narrow economic benefits of public sector expenditure would concentrate on the production of the good or service and where the expenditure actually took place. The focus of this approach would be on employment levels, procurement costs and local economic multiplier effects.
However, the aim of GERS is to provide an estimate of the full range of public services consumed in a given year for the benefit of Scotland. A study of the economic impact of government expenditure is a separate exercise. Therefore GERS uses, wherever possible, the for methodology. Annex B and the more detailed methodology note on the GERS website provide a detailed discussion of the methodologies and datasets used to undertake this task. Box 5.2 in Chapter 5 discusses the differences between the figures used in GERS for expenditure for Scotland, and other figures such as Scottish Government budgets.
The Data Sources
The primary data source used to estimate Scottish public sector expenditure in GERS is the Country and Regional Analysis (CRA) data published by HM Treasury. Access to the CRA database can be obtained through the UK Government website.
The source of the revenue data in GERS is ONS's Public Sector Finances Statistical Bulletin, which provides disaggregated figures relating to UK public sector revenue. Access to the ONS Public Sector Finance Statistics data can be obtained through the ONS website.
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). Further information on QNAS is available on the Scottish Government website.
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 2013-14, following consultation with users. This makes the GERS time series consistent with the other Economic Statistics products.
The Scottish Government, other devolved administrations, and HMRC are committed to working together to reconcile, and where possible, align methodologies for estimating regional tax receipts. Further details on this work can be seen in Box 3.1 in Chapter 3. Progress reports on this work will also be available on the GERS website.
The GERS website can be accessed via http://www.gov.scot/gers.
Email: Mairi Spowage