The Scottish government published its latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report on Wednesday morning.

The new report covers the 2019/20 tax year, so the full economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will not be reflected in this announced figures.

Here’s what you need to know about GERS and how it’s calculated:

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What is it?

The report estimates the difference between what the level of public revenue raised is in Scotland and what is spent on its public services, under the current constitutional arrangements.

What did the report show?

The 2019/20 tax year figures put Scotland's public spending at £81bn. However, total tax revenues, including a geographical share of North Sea oil, were only £65.9bn - resulting in a deficit of £15.1bn.

This was £2bn more than the 2018/19 shortfall of £13.2bn.

Is GERS a reflection of the whole Scottish economy?

The Scottish Government say:

“No. GERS reports only on public sector revenue and expenditure. Although these may be affected by economic performance, GERS does not directly report on Scotland’s wider economy”


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How is GERS calculated?

GERS is produced by independent civil servant statisticians.

The total spend is made up of Scottish and local government services and UK welfare spending and pensions in Scotland.

This also includes the UK government’s spending in non-devolved areas in Scotland such as defence, and allocates a proportion of the UK's debt interest payments to Scotland.

The data on the spending side is not estimated but the UK spending is allocated to Scotland on a proportional basis. 

The Scottish government says that Gers is a National Statistics publication, which means that it is "produced independently of Scottish ministers and has been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority as being produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

"This means the statistics have been found to meet user needs, to be methodologically sound, explained well and produced free of political interference."

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What does this mean for independence?

The GERS figures are only meant to show the current financial position under the current arrangements.

During IndyRef in 2014, the Scottish government's White Paper described Gers as "the authoritative publication on Scotland's public finances".

However, Unionists have called the recent report a “hammer blow to the SNP and a massive setback for separation”.

In 2019/20, Scotland contributed 8% of the UK tax income to the exchequer, but received 9.2% of public sector spending.

Scotland’s national deficit works at 8.6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up from 7.4% the previous year.

So, for example, if a newly independent Scotland were to apply to rejoin the EU after Brexit then it would be expected to bring the national deficit to below 3%.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: "The Scottish Government’s own figures show clearly how much Scotland benefits from being part of a strong United Kingdom, with the pooling and sharing of resources that brings.”

However, Finance Secretary Katie Forbes said: “An independent Scotland would have the power to make different choices, with different economic budgetary results.”