Tom Gordon

DEREK Mackay is to publish his own “economic case for independence” as a concession to SNP members who dislike the official statistics on the size of Scotland’s deficit.

The Finance Secretary said the new analysis would come out at the same time as the annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) numbers.

Mr Mackay said he felt “frustrated” that GERS figures only covered Scotland’s position within the Union, not its potential outside of it.

He told Holyrood magazine he had made a “concession” to similarly frustrated SNP members at their October conference that he would “publish an equivalent analysis of what we could do with independence as we published the GERS figures”.

The Scottish Tories called it “pathetic” and “amateurish”.

The move comes as Nicola Sturgeon says she wants a new independence referendum in late 2020, despite Boris Johnson denying her the power to hold it.

Mr Mackay’s new economic case for independence could compliment Ms Sturgeon’s demand, but could raise questions about Scotland’s economy outside the UK, and potential tax rises or spending cuts.

Produced by impartial Scottish Government officials, and usually published in August, GERS shows the gap between all public spending and tax revenue in Scotland.

Last year, GERS revealed Scotland’s notional deficit of £12.6bn in 2018/19 was a record six times larger than the UK’s at 7 per cent of Scottish GDP, when the UK deficit was 1.1% of UK GDP.

The SNP’s Growth Commission used GERS as the basis for drawing up a revised economic blueprint for Scotland after independence.

However GERS is regarded as suspect or misleading by many Yes supporters, as it is traditionally used as a stick by Unionists to beat the independence movement.

Mr Mackay his new analysis would allow him to say, “‘OK, here’s the analysis of where people think we are right now as part of this system and here’s an even better picture of what we think we can do with the powers of independence’.”

He went on: “I will publish that assessment next time we publish the GERS figures because I’m so convinced with the economic argument of Scotland.

“I think it needs the exposure it deserves, rather than the usual knockabout that Scotland’s too poor, too wee to be independent - we’ve absolutely got what it takes.

“We’ll start it off on the basis of what we have right now and then say what the opportunities would be if we were to, say, grow particular sectors or make particular decisions.

“Whatever people think of the Growth Commission, it was a substantial piece of work, and I’m committing to the equivalent level of intensity in our economic argument every year that we publish GERS, to make the point that here’s the position we’re in right now but here’s what we could have.

“That will be my annual economic case for independence and hopefully, I won’t have to make them for too much longer because we will be independent.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “It’s quite incredible for Scotland’s finance secretary to be so brazenly arrogant about independent expert statisticians.

“When GERS figures repeatedly show the bleak reality of an independent Scotland and reveal the SNP’s ongoing failures, the nationalists should rise to the challenge.

“Instead, the SNP government now wants to make its own little report which, presumably, will show everything in a great light. It’s pathetic behaviour from an increasingly amateurish administration.”

The Scottish Government said: “The GERS publication explicitly states that it shows Scotland’s position within the UK and not as an independent nation. We will ensure people have the information they need to make informed choices over the future of the country.”

In the same interview, Mr Mackay also likened UK Government ministers to Scotland’s “imperial masters”, joking they didn’t live up to the billing.

He also revealed he walked out of his first meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who then asked him to go easy on him as he was new in the job.

He said: “ I left the meeting expressing my displeasure at the attitude of the UK Government towards Scotland.

“Poor Rishi Sunak pretty much pleaded with me to give him a chance.”