GERS and High Speed Rail
A Twitter user claimed “Scotland pays 9%” towards infrastructure projects in England. This amount “goes towards your deficit”. Over 300 users shared this claim.
This claim is untrue. For the High Speed 2 project, the estimated figure is about 2%. Railway infrastructure spending is generally assigned based on where it is.
Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland
Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland are National Statistics produced by Scottish Government statisticians. The Office for Statistics Regulation says GERS complies with its Code of Practice. The publication uses a National Accounts basis, in line with international reporting standards.
GERS seeks to answer three questions about Scottish finances under its current constitution:
- What revenues did Scotland raise?
- What did Scotland spend on public services?
- What is the estimated difference between revenue and expenditure?
The publication is about Scottish public finances, rather than the wider Scottish economy. GERS follows these methodological principles:
- Expenditure: estimated spending incurred for the benefits of residents and enterprises in Scotland.
- Revenue: estimated taxes imposed on residents and enterprises in Scotland.
Estimated expenditures partially come from spending by the Scottish government, and Scottish local government. Plus, that expenditure includes apportioned UK government spending, such as pensions.
From this work, we estimate Scotland’s net fiscal position:
Checking the accounts
A Twitter user wrote that:
If England build a new infrastructure like HS2, only going to Birmingham, crossrail in London etc.
Are you aware that Scotland pays 9% towards it and it goes towards your deficit.
Within GERS, the expenditure has been apportioned to Scotland in line with the regional breakdown of the benefits of High Speed 2 reported within The Economic Case for HS2, published by the Department for Transport. This assigns Scotland 2% of the total expenditure.
There is a database showing Scottish spending in GERS. In 2017/18, about £57m of HS2 current and capital spending was assigned to Scotland. The UK total was £2.6bn, so the Scottish share was 2.2% — not 9%.
In the same database, Crossrail is shown as £0 for GERS in 2017/18¹. Crossrail is not part of the Scottish deficit.
As the 2013/14 note states:
As discussed in previous editions of GERS, railways expenditure is apportioned to Scotland on an in basis.
Except for HS2, GERS assigns railway infrastructure where the spending is. Such spending must be in Scotland. That is what the ‘in’ basis means.
People should avoid misrepresenting statistics in public debate.
¹To find these figures, search ‘High Speed Two’ and ‘Crossrail’ in the segment description. I have published an edited version of the latest GERS detailed expenditure database.