ONS publishes public sector revenues for the countries and regions of the UK

The ONS has published some experimental statistics detailing public sector revenue and expenditure for the countries and regions of the UK.

The data finds that in 2015/16 Scotland raised the fourth most (£10,230) in public sector revenue per person out of the UK’s 12 NUTS 1 statistical regions, and received the second most (£13,054) in terms of public sector expenditure. This resulted in a deficit of £2,824 per person.

Scotland’s deficit was the fifth biggest in the UK, behind Northern Ireland (£5,437), Wales (£4,545), and North East (£3,827) and North West (£3,043) England. Only the East of England, the South East, and London had a surplus.

We’ve created three graphs based on the data. You can explore all the data here.

Source: ONS—Country and regional public sector finances: Financial year ending March 2016, Table 3 (.xls).

Source: ONS—Country and regional public sector finances: Financial year ending March 2016, Table 5 (.xls).

Source: ONS—Country and regional public sector finances: Financial year ending March 2016, Tables 3 and 5.

To put the UK in context, the below chart from Eurostat shows just how big the disparity in GDP per capita is between London and the national average when compared with other EU countries.

(We’re not sure why the UK is the only country with two blue circles for ‘Capital region’. We’ve asked Eurostat about this and will update the page when they get back to us.) Update—Eurostat has informed us that the lower blue dot in the UK column is a visualisation error and in fact belongs to ‘Other NUTS regions’.

Gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant in purchasing power standard (PPS) in relation to the EU-28 average, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (% of the EU-28 average, EU-28 = 100)
Gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant in purchasing power standard (PPS) in relation to the EU-28 average, by NUTS 2 regions, 2014 (% of the EU-28 average, EU-28 = 100). Source: Eurostat—Image, originating page.

Latest quarterly national accounts released—summary and analysis

National accounts for the fourth quarter of 2016 were released today. Headline results from the Government’s publication:

  • During the fourth quarter of 2016, Scottish onshore GDP decreased by 0.2% in real terms. In 2016 as a whole, GDP increased by 0.4% compared to 2015. These results are re-printed in this publication without revision following their release on 5 April 2017.
  • During 2016 as a whole, the value of Scottish onshore GDP is estimated at £149.8 billion in total, or £27,839 per person.
  • Including a geographical share of UK extra-regio (offshore and overseas) economic activity, Scottish GDP is estimated at £159.0 billion during 2016, or £29,554 per person.
  • Analysis of the expenditure measure of onshore GDP shows that growth over the latest 12 months was mostly driven by consumer spending, but with positive contributions also made by government, capital investment and exports. There was a negative contribution to GDP growth from the widening of the onshore net trade deficit, due to the increasing value of imports.
  • Manufactured Exports make up around half of the total value of exports from Scotland to the rest of the world (excluding oil and gas). The Index of Manufactured Exports (IME) fell by 2.3% in volume terms during the fourth quarter of 2016. Comparing the most recent four quarters to the previous four quarters (4Q-on-4Q growth), the volume of manufactured exports fell by 5.3 per cent.
  • Over the year to 2016 Quarter 4, total consumer spending by the Household and NPISH sectors is estimated to have increased by 2.9% in current prices (unadjusted for inflation, not real terms)
  • Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) is estimated to have increased by 1.6% over the year to 2016 Quarter 4 (in current prices, not real terms). The Household Savings Ratio is 2.6 per cent in the latest quarter.

Some charts and analysis based on the data…

The below chart shows GDP per capita from 1998 to 2016, with and without North Sea oil and gas:

Source: QNAS 2016 Q4—Summary Tables (Table B).

And here is real-terms GDP growth (onshore only) since 1998:

Source: QNAS 2016 Q4—Summary Tables (Table A).

GDP grew by 0.4% in real terms from 2015 to 2016, but growth was flat (+0.01%) if you compare Q4 2016 with Q4 20151.

As highlighted by The Scotsman, North Sea oil revenues in 2016 were negative for the first calendar year on record2. The below chart shows how onshore and offshore revenue have contributed to Scotland’s public finances since 1998:

Source: QNAS 2016 Q4—Summary Tables (Table J).

Both North Sea and overall revenues had been falling since 2011. However, there was a levelling off of total revenue in 2015, and in 2016 total revenue rose by £2.1 billion despite oil revenues being negative. Let us hope this is the beginning of an upward trend.

The chart below shows Gross Value Added (GVA)3 by broad industry group:

Source: QNAS 2016 Q4—Summary Tables (Table D).

Services is by far the biggest contributor, with a weight of 76% of GVA, and 67% of GDP. Services grew by 1.8% in real terms in 20164, but shrank by 0.04% in real terms in the last quarter of 20165. For the UK as a whole, the ONS’s latest figures show that services make up 79% of UK GDP.


  • 14 May: Added chart showing real-terms GDP (chained volume index) since 1998
  • 13 May: Added chart showing GVA by broad industry group
  • 12 May: Added chart comparing onshore and offshore public sector revenue since 1998
  • 11 May: Added chart showing GDP since 1998

Sources of data and statistics

We’ve added a page linking to various sources of data and statistics relating to Scotland and the wider world, including GDP of Scotland and its regions, trade, population, politics, energy, health, and the environment. Check it out here and let us know if we’ve missed anything.

2015 GDP per capita for EU27 and Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and regions of England

A couple of weeks ago, Eurostat—the European Union’s statistics office—released 2015 GDP data for the EU’s nations and regions. We’ve created a couple of charts based on it.

The first shows that, measured by GDP per capita (adjusted for relative purchasing power in the EU context), Scotland is fourth out of the UK’s 12 ‘NUTS 1’ regions (onshore economy only).

Source: 2015 GDP per capita in 276 EU regions, published by Eurostat on 30 March 2017

The Scottish Government estimates that the country’s actual GDP per capita in 2015 was £26,500 for the onshore economy, £26,700 with a population share of extra-regio1 activity, and £28,400 with a geographical extra-regio share2. The most recent GDP estimates have onshore GDP per capita for the 12-month period from October 2015 to September 2016 at £27,750; £29,300 including a geographical share of extra-regio economic activity3.

The second chart compares the onshore GDP of the UK countries and regions against the 27 other countries of the EU. The UK data is for the onshore economy only.

Source: 2015 GDP per capita in 276 EU regions

Scotland’s onshore GDP per capita is ranked 12th alongside the EU28. When you include a geographical share of oil and gas from the continental shelf, we calculate that Scotland ranks ninth (see table below).

Country 2015 GDP per capita (€PPP) Rank
Luxembourg 76,200 1
Ireland 51,100 2
Netherlands 37,000 3
Austria 36,900 4
Denmark 36,600 5
Germany 35,800 6
Sweden 35,700 7
Belgium 34,200 8
Scotland (with geographical share of North Sea oil and gas) 31,643
Finland 31,600 9
United Kingdom 31,200 10
France 30,600 11

We’ve based our calculations on figures in last month’s Fraser of Allander Institute publication Economic Commentary, Vol 41 No 1, in which the FAI compares Scottish GDP per capita (including oil) with that of the top OECD countries.

Below are our back-of-an-envelope sums. The multipliers between given countries in the OECD and Eurostat data are almost identical so we’ve gone with this simple approach. If any readers have a more sophisticated way of doing it, please let us know.

// OECD vs Eurostat multiplier
// All € (Eurostat) or $ (OECD), PPP, for 2015

// Random check: Finland / France
OECD: $42,268 (Finland) / $41,005 (France) = 1.0308011218
Eurostat: €31,600 (Finland) / €30,600 (France) = 1.0326797386

// Random check: France / UK
OECD: $41,005 (France) / $41,779 (UK) = 0.9814739462
Eurostat: €30,600 (France) / €31,200 (UK) = 0.9807692308

// Random check: Austria / UK
OECD: $49,440 (Austria) / $41,779 (UK) = 1.1833696355
Eurostat: €36,900 (Austria) / €31,200 (UK) = 1.1826923077

// Eurostat, Scotland with geographical share of NSOG
OECD/FAI multiplier: $42,372 (Scotland with geo. share of NSOG) / $41,779 (UK) = 1.0141937337
Scotland (for Eurostat comparison): €31,200 (UK) × 1.0141937337 = €31,642.84

// Post-calculation check: Austria / Scotland (geo. share of NSOG)
OECD/FAI: $49,440 (Austria) / $42,372 (Scotland with geo. share of NSOG) = 1.1668082696
Our calculation (Eurostat): €36,900 (Austria) / €31,642.84 (Scotland with geo. share of NSOG) = 1.1661404211

// OECD($)/Eurostat(€) divisor check (rounded to two decimal places)
Luxembourg: 102131/76200 = 1.34
Ireland: 68481/51100 = 1.34
Netherlands: 49570/37000 = 1.34
Austria: 49440/36900 = 1.34
Denmark: 48994/36600 = 1.34
Germany: 47999/35800 = 1.34
Sweden: 47823/35700 = 1.34
Belgium: 45873/34200 = 1.34
Scotland: 42372/31643 = 1.34
Finland: 42268/31600 = 1.34
United Kingdom: 41779/31200 = 1.34
France: 41005/30600 = 1.34

Trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK

The chart below shows trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK (onshore) from 1998 to 2015.

Source: QNAS 2016 Q3 Publication Tables (Table G)

Scotland has had a trade surplus with rUK in every year during this period, exporting more than it imports in absolute terms1. However, in relative terms Scotland exported 63.6%2 of goods and services to rUK in 2015, whereas rUK exported 10.5% to Scotland3. Overall, Scotland had a trade deficit of £10bn in 2015.

Scotland is an outlier in Europe in exporting so much to one trading partner. However, in terms of goods, Canada and Mexico exported 77% and 81% respectively to the USA in 20154. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given that Scotland, Canada, and Mexico all share a border with a relatively huge market.

Despite this, for a small country like Scotland there is a strong case to be made for trade partner diversification. More on that in a forthcoming post.

It’s worth noting that North Sea oil and gas is excluded from the trade statistics on which the above chart is based due to the difficulty in calculating the figures5. However, the Scottish Government did produce experimental statistics related to oil and gas in September 2016 and February of this year. There is a note in the tables cautioning against simply combining the experimental stats with the onshore ones, so we’ve not attempted to do so here. In any case, oil revenues were pretty much non-existent in 2015.

Latest leader approval/disapproval ratings

YouGov has released more results from its 9–14 March 2017 poll. You can peruse the datasets here. We’ve created a chart (below) based on how well or badly respondents thought each leader was doing, comparing November 2016 (semi-transparent) to March 2017 (opaque). Those who answered “don’t know” are not represented in the chart.

GDP per capita: Scotland (onshore) vs selected OECD countries

Following our chart that compared Scottish and EU GDP, here’s one comparing Scotland to selected OECD countries, measuring GDP per capita (adjusted for relative purchasing power) in 2014.

Update, 27 March: It turns out that, contrary to our assumptions, the regional figures provided by the OECD do not include any offshore (or “extra-regio”) revenues. The “country”-level figures do, however, so the purpose of the chart now is to compare Scotland’s onshore GDP per capita to that of selected OECD countries. Isn’t that pretty pointless, given that Scotland does still actually have oil? That’s a valid argument, but Andrew Wilson, head of the SNP’s growth commission, has said that projections they make will be based on oil producing zero revenues. The commission will “treat any revenues that we get from oil as a proper windfall to be used on intergenerational projects rather than spent on spending today.”

We did query whether the numbers included offshore revenue while we were researching the article, but a statistician from the OECD only got back to us today.

Source for OECD country data: OECD (2017), Gross domestic product (GDP) (indicator). doi: 10.1787/dc2f7aec-en (accessed on 12 March 2017). Measured in USD per capita (GDP per capita) at current prices and PPPs. Data for Scotland extracted on 12 Mar 2017 c. 13:00 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat, measured in USD per head, current prices, current PPPs. Numbers for the Netherlands and France are based on provisional data. Values for Poland, Turkey, and Mexico are estimates.

At $37,235 per person, Scotland’s 2014 onshore GDP per capita was 93.5% of the OECD average of $39,808.3 (estimated). Scotland is very slightly above the OECD average for Europe of $37,222 (estimated), and 99.2% of the EU28’s $37,529.

GDP per capita is perhaps the most common means of measuring comparative wealth, but there is also Gross National Income (GNI). In a May 2014 paper commissioned by The Guardian, Glasgow University economists John McLaren and Jo Armstrong described the difference between GNI and GDP—in the context of Scotland—thus: “GDP measures the value of economic activity within a country, regardless of ownership, while GNI measures the value of economic activity that ends up in the hands of Scottish citizens, i.e. it includes earnings made from abroad and excludes earnings made in Scotland that end up with their overseas owners.” They argued in the 2014 paper that “due to high foreign ownership in key industries like North Sea oil and gas, whisky, the financial sector etc., it is GNI per head that is the more relevant measure.”

Unfortunately, there are no recent figures for Scottish GNI. The Government produced a paper in 2013 with figures for 2010, and the aforementioned Guardian analysis presented estimates for 2012 and 2013, but that’s all we could find.

Finally, perhaps it should be highlighted that the purpose of these blog posts comparing Scotland to other economies is to try to put Scotland into context as best we can using specific measures. Forming an overall view of the Scottish economy, with its interdependencies in the UK and internationally, is a job outside the expertise of a mere inquisitive blogger. Understanding Scotland’s position is further complicated by the fact that data on which to base GERS or the Global Connections Survey, for example, are limited. In fact, one university professor and tax expert today described GERS data as “crap”. In 2014 Merryn Somerset Webb of MoneyWeek and the FT questioned GERS too. Trade statistics are arguably even more ropey, and out of date.

In any case, the SNP’s Growth Commission will be using the official figures in its work and should be reporting soon (at least to the First Minister). As far as material for public consumption goes, Nicola Sturgeon was asked at her 13 March press conference about a follow-up to the 2013 independence white paper, and she said that further details were forthcoming.

Economic growth: Scotland vs small EU countries vs UK

The chart below compares the annual GDP growth rates1 of Scotland, small EU countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, and Sweden2), and the UK, from 2003 until Q3 2016.

Source: Scottish Government ‘Scotland Performs’ economic growth data, published January 2017. From the technical note accompanying the stats, it looks like the figures for Scotland don’t include North Sea oil and gas extraction activity, but the UK figures do3.

Between the four quarters ending in Q3 2015 and the four quarters ending in Q3 2016, the Small EU growth rate was 3.5%, while the UK grew 1.9%, and Scotland 0.7%. If you take an average of the sum total of all quarters of growth or contraction during the period in the chart (2003 Q1 to 2016 Q3), the result is 1.6% for both the UK and EU, and 1.3% for Scotland. The average gap with Small EU was -0.3%; with the UK it was -0.4%.

The accompanying technical note gives an average annual GDP growth rate for the 30-year period to 2006. The Small EU average over that period was 2.8%, the UK 2.6%, and Scotland 2.1%.

Data for Q4 2016 will be published next month.

(The Economist and Fraser of Allander Institute have published articles within the past couple of months analysing recent growth trends in Scotland.)

Scottish GDP

Disourse.scot intends to create a number of interactive charts looking at how Scotland fares on key economic and social indicators in the context of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. The first, below, concerns simply Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It shows GDP (onshore), GDP (including a population share of extra-regio [offshore and overseas] UK economic activity), and GDP (including a geographical share of all offshore activity occurring in Scottish adjacent waters).

Tap and hover for more information.

Source: Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (QNAS) 2015 Q4 Statistical Bulletin and QNAS 2015 Q4 Summary Tables, produced by the UK Statistics Authority for the Scottish Government, published 3 May 2016