This report is the twenty-ninth 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 Statistics. More information about National Statistics, including the latest assessment report on GERS (number 274), is available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
The Scottish Government held a public consultation on a potential new publication on devolved public sector finances in Scotland from June to September 2018. A consultation response was published in November 2018, setting out the intention to produce a new statistical publication in this area. Work on this publication has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Scottish Government will provide a further update once a publication date is confirmed.
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
Coronavirus and the Public Sector Finances
The COVID-19 pandemic, which spread across the world in 2020, has had profound impacts on public health, the economy, and the public finances. The UK and Scotland introduced strict public health measures at the end of March 2020, as well as announcing a range of support packages for households and businesses. These public health measures and support packages persisted in various forms across the entirety of 2020-21 and into 2021‑22.
COVID-19 saw an unprecedented increase in public sector borrowing, reflecting both lower tax revenue as economic activity fell and higher spending both on public health response and support packages. Although revenue in 2021-22 has increased and public expenditure fallen, public sector borrowing in the UK remains higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The ONS has published an article setting out some of the challenges with measuring the Public Sector Finances at this time, available at:
Some of the response to the pandemic for Scotland, such as additional funding for the NHS, has been delivered by the Scottish Government, and is reflected in the Scottish Government spending in Table 3.8. Other elements, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allowed firms to place their staff on furlough with up to 80% of their wages paid by government, is Other UK Government Department spending. More detail on coronavirus spending is set out in Box 3.1.
This year, expenditure associated with coronavirus business loans has been included within spending on enterprise and economic development, having previously been captured through accounting adjustments. The approach to reporting and estimating the impact of COVID-19 on the GERS figures for Scotland will continue to be reviewed for future publications.
Recent Statistical Decisions and Changes
A number of statistical changes have been made over the last year, many as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, a large number of schemes has been introduced by the UK Government, the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations, and the Bank of England to support the economy and individuals affected by the pandemic. The statistical treatment of these interventions continues to be reviewed by the ONS. Since the time of the last GERS publication, some of the recording of the interventions has been updated. This includes the loan guarantee schemes issued by the UK Government. Further detail is available at:
Since the previous edition of GERS, the main change relates to the government coronavirus loan guarantee schemes. In general, loans issued by the public sector do not immediately increase expenditure, as they may be repaid; however, an allowance for the fact some of the coronavirus loans are expected not to be repaid is included as expenditure in 2020‑21. In this year's edition of GERS this is included in Other UK Government department spending on enterprise and economic development, having previously been reported as an accounting adjustment.
Scottish National Investment Bank
The Scottish National Investment Bank was launched in November 2020 to be a development investment bank and provide patient (long term) capital to businesses and projects throughout Scotland. On 30 June 2022, the ONS classified the bank as a central government body and spending associated with the bank is included within Scottish Government spending in GERS. Further information on the decision is available at:
Bulb Energy Limited
On 24 November 2021, the energy provider Bulb Energy Limited was placed into a Special Administration Regime (SAR) by the government. SARs are designed to ensure continued provision of essential services when providers become insolvent. As such, the government will provide the necessary funding for Bulb Energy Limited to continue to supply energy to customers, with the opportunity to recoup these funds at a later date. The SAR process differs from normal insolvency processes followed by energy companies, where customers are transferred to a supplier of last resort.
The ONS are currently reviewing the impact of the SAR from a classifications perspective. In the meantime, Bulb Energy Limited remains part of the private sector, and its expenditure is not included within GERS.
Methodological changes in this edition of GERS
Company tax reliefs
There are a number of different tax credits available to companies. One of the larger reliefs is for research and development (R&D), such as the small and medium enterprises scheme, and the research and development expenditure credit scheme. There are also a number of smaller schemes, mainly relating to creative industries, such as tax reliefs on the production of children's television, theatre, films, and video games.
In the Country and Regional Analysis publication, Scotland is allocated a share of expenditure on company tax credits in line with its GVA share. Although comprehensive information on regional spending is not available for all the schemes, some regional information is available for the largest schemes, and this has been used to apportion this spending in this edition of GERS. We have suggested this to HM Treasury as an area where the methodology of the Country and Regional Analysis publication could be reviewed in future.
The estimates of aggregates levy in this year's publication have been aligned to those produced by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.
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.
In general, the way in which revenue is collected means that separate figures for each country and region of the UK are not available for most revenues, although following increased devolution in recent years, more Scottish data have become available. 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 to provide services for residents of Scotland. That is, a particular public sector expenditure is apportioned to a region if the outcome of the expenditure is thought to provide a public service which benefits 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 service provided is more collective in nature, such as defence, an assessment of 'who the service is for' depends upon the nature of the specific type of expenditure 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 public sector 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.
Estimates of spending in Scotland are used in some Scottish Government publications, such as the Quarterly National Accounts. However, these do not provide a complete measure of spending, as some types of spending, such as welfare spending, are not reported. The Scottish Government is currently reviewing the potential to provide users with estimates of spending in Scotland, and information on how this would differ from spending for Scotland.
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 format and statistics providing a consistent time series of Scotland's public sector finances from 1998-99 to 2021-22.
The GERS website can be accessed via:
Comparisons to other countries and regions of the UK
GERS does not provide comparisons of Scottish revenue and expenditure with other parts of the UK, as data are not yet available for 2021-22 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, available at the link below. 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, organizations such as the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund 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.
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