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.