Scotland’s Chief Economist Dr Gary Gillespie has published latest State of the Economy report. The gov.scot news summary summarising it is positively headlined: ‘Economy outlook positive.’ Bizarrely it then opens timidly with: ‘Growth forecasted but consumer sentiment remains negative following EU Referendum’ and selects a mix of some good news, some hesitancy and frankly gifts to critics. Maybe it’s partly due to having to make choices to shorten the text but the choices are civil service bland. Below, I’ll list the Government phrases and insert what I think are justifiably more confident excerpts from the report and/or my reading of them. Remember, I’m still recovering from depression!
The Scottish Government (SG) statements are below in plain text with the reports actual wording and some information from elsewhere, matched in most cases, in italics, with a bit of emboldening from me:
Forecasts for the Scottish economy remain positive with Scottish Government growth forecasts of 1% and 1.3% in 2016/17 and 2017/18
The Scottish economy continued to grow during the second half of 2016, with GDP rising and unemployment falling over the year; reflecting in part the strong fundamentals of Scotland’s economy.
The Scottish labour market has remained resilient with the unemployment rate falling over the past year
The labour market has also remained resilient with employment and unemployment rates continuing to outperform their long run averages, despite the external challenges that have impacted the economy over this period.
Scottish productivity has continued to grow and has now closed the gap with UK levels
As outlined in this report, Scottish productivity has grown strongly in recent years, with the historic gap in productivity performance between Scotland and the UK as a whole now closed. Our analysis shows this has contributed more to Scottish growth whilst UK growth has been driven more strongly by population growth.
Following the EU referendum growth rates remain below trend
Since the EU referendum, the Scottish Government’s Consumer Sentiment Indicator has fallen to its lowest levels since the survey began in 2013.
There are then three paragraphs in the report bemoaning the effects of Brexit on the Scottish economy. Though no doubt true, I’m not sure this issue is a strong card for the Yes movement and worthy of such space in the press release. Far too many people voted to leave the EU in Scotland. I voted ‘remain’ myself while holding my nose tightly. Strategically, I think in a release about the strength of the Scottish economy, we should say little about this divisive issue, stop saying ‘weaker’ and say more about the good news. There has been a lot recently about, for example, the world’s biggest marine turbine drive off Dounreay or about the massive investment in Lochaber. This and more can be found at: http://www.scoop.it/t/talking-up-scotland
The outlook for the oil and gas industry may improve through 2017
This is terribly tentative even timid. There’s a lot of clear evidence to get rid of that ‘may’ (too). The industry itself is investing again and the hedge funds are piling in like a gang of bookies who know the oil price is likely to recover. Even the Scottish Government itself is investing in development wisely. You can find the hard evidence here:
The rest of the SG release is a perfectly fair but strangely modest text. I’ll leave you to read it if you wish. The only up-for-it bit (already touched on above), applauding Scotland viz-a-viz the UK is at the end:
‘In looking at the contributions to GDP growth in Scotland and the UK since 2007, productivity growth has made a larger contribution to GDP growth in Scotland, while population growth has been the key driver of overall GDP growth in the UK.’
See what that means? Scotland’s GDP growth is based on a real increase in productivity not just more people consuming.
Is this what happens to campaigning movements when they’ve been governments for some time and especially if their campaign ideals seem to be initially thwarted? They become good at day-to-day government but lose a little of the fire? That press release looks more like an attempt to seem mature, balanced and sensible than an attempt to fight a cause.
There’s a link to the full report in the press release above.