Scotland’s public spending deficit rises to £15.1bn

The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report covers the last tax year up to March, when the pandemic hit.

Andrew Mckenna / EyeEm via Getty Images

The gap between public spending and tax revenues in Scotland widened to more than £15bn in the last year, or around 9% of GDP, according to new figures.

The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2019-20 covers the last tax year up to April 5, covering the whole of March, the first month the coronavirus pandemic fully hit the UK.

Despite record revenues of £65.9bn, backed by a £1.1bn increase in onshore revenue, receipts from North Sea oil and gas plummeted by nearly half to £724m.

Meanwhile, total expenditure for Scotland – which includes money spent by both the Scottish and UK governments – rose from £78.6bn in 2018-19 to just over £81bn last year.

It leaves Scotland with a notional deficit of £15.1bn, up from £13.1bn the year before.

By share of GDP, it’s a rise to 8.6% from 7.4% previously, accounting for a geographical share of North Sea oil and gas revenues.

The GERS statistics indicate the UK’s deficit is 2.5% of GDP, up from 1.9% the previous year.

Public spending per head in Scotland was nearly £1663 higher than that of the UK average, very similar to last year.

But the UK Government said the “Union dividend” per Scot – combining higher spending and lower Scottish revenues – was £1941 in 2019-20, up from £1805 in 2018-19.

Revenue per person in Scotland fell to £308 lower than the UK average, down from £171 lower than the UK average the year before.

Commentary in the GERS report says the figures “incorporate the initial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic” but notes the effects will be even greater next year.

The Scottish Government said the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak has seen public spending rise while tax receipts have depressed.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes stressed 40% of spending in Scotland and 70% of revenue income is still controlled by the UK Government.

She said if Scotland was independent it would have “the power to make different choices”.

Calling for greater fiscal powers for Scotland, Forbes said: “The public finances were already facing challenges this year due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“We are now witnessing an unprecedented health and economic crisis.

“Countries across the world, including the UK, have increased borrowing to record levels and, as we emerge from the pandemic, high fiscal deficits will inevitably be one of the consequences.

Handout via Getty Images
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes. Getty Images

“That is why the UK Government should prioritise economic stimulus over austerity.

“I will also continue to press for the Scottish Government to be granted additional financial powers to enable us to tailor a response that meets Scotland’s needs.”

The finance secretary continued: “Scotland, unlike most other countries around the world, large and small, does not currently have the full financial powers needed to chart a way to sustainable recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The current situation, with the looming withdrawal of furlough support by the UK Government, means it is now more urgent than ever that we gain those powers.

“Despite the pandemic, and the economic problems that inevitably will arise at the end of the Brexit transition period, we are determined that Scotland should emerge with a stronger, fairer, greener, and more resilient economy.”

She added: “An independent Scotland would have the power to make different choices, with different economic budgetary results.”

But Scottish secretary Alister Jack said the figures show how important the union is to Scotland’s finances.

He 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.

“People in Scotland, year after year, benefit from levels of public spending substantially above the United Kingdom average, with a Union dividend of £1941 per person in Scotland. 

“That has never been more important than it is right now. In the face of a global pandemic, the strength and experience of the UK Treasury is helping people in Scotland and across the rest of the United Kingdom. 

“The UK Government is currently supporting more than 930,000 jobs in Scotland – a third of the workforce.

“This is just one part of a huge package of measures to get our economy back on track.”

Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral due to take place in Windsor

Prince Philip's final farewell will take place in St George’s Chapel on Saturday and a national minute’s silence will be held at 3pm.

STV News
Prince Philip's final farewell will take place this afternoon.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s final farewell is due to take place at Windsor Castle on Saturday afternoon.

The ceremonial royal funeral will be held inside St George’s Chapel and a national minute’s silence will be observed as it begins at 3pm.

Prince Philip’s coffin will be transported from the castle to the chapel in a specially modified Land Rover he helped to design, and followed by the Prince of Wales and senior royals on foot.

Only 30 people will attend as guests in line with coronavirus restrictions.

Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward will be joined by the Duke’s grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry, as they walk in procession behind his coffin as it makes its way to the chapel.

Getty Images via Getty Images
The duke’s ‘unwavering loyalty’ to the Queen will be hailed during the service.

Other guests include Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke’s grandchildren and their spouses.

The Duchess of Sussex has been advised by her physician not to travel to the UK for the funeral.

Mourners will not be wearing military unifrom, instead they will be in morning coats with medals.

The congregation will wear masks for the service which will include a choir of four singing pieces chosen by the duke.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s “unwavering loyalty” to the Queen and “courage, fortitude and faith” will be hailed during the service.

No sermon will be delivered, in keeping with Philip’s wishes.

His love of the sea and long association with the Royal Navy permeates the Order of Service, which has been released by Buckingham Palace ahead of Saturday’s proceedings.

The duke died peacefully in his sleep at Windsor Castle last week, two months before his 100th birthday, leaving the Queen and the royal family “mourning his loss”.

Gordonstoun shares unseen images of the Duke of Edinburgh

The pictures from 1937 show Prince Philip in happy times, sailing one of Moray school's boats.

Major B Varvill R.A.M.C via Gordonstoun
Duke of Edinburgh: Prince Philip passed away on April 9 at the age of 99.

Previously unseen images of the Duke of Edinburgh have been released by the prince’s former school.

The pictures from 1937 show Prince Philip in happy times, sailing one of Gordonstoun’s boats, Diligent.

A spokesperson for Gordonstoun said: “In one image Philip shows his confidence at the helm. In the other he demonstrates his confidence doing the washing up.”

The pictures were taken by the great-uncle of a former student, who contacted the Moray school following the Duke’s death on April 9.

Major B Varvill R.A.M.C via Gordonstoun
Sailor: Prince Philip attended Gordonstoun.

Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, passed away at Windsor Castle at the age of 99.

The Duke and the Queen were married for more than 70 years and Philip dedicated decades of his life to royal duty, serving the nation at the monarch’s side.

His funeral takes place on Saturday.

Gordonstoun via Email
Gordonstoun: Students took part in an early morning run.

On Friday, Gordonstoun students took part in an early morning run in tribute to the Duke.

Morning runs were compulsory at the school until the 1990s and more than 100 students and staff, in household groups, ran a 3.5km route from Gordonstoun House to the nearby Coastguard watchtower that Philip reopened in 1955.

Gordonstoun via Email
Watchtower: Prince Philip reopened it in 1955.

The watchtower replaced a wooden hut that the Duke, a member of the “Watchers” – a precursor to the Coastguard – helped build in 1935.

The school’s young sailors will pay their own tribute to him on Saturday ahead of his funeral, laying a wreath at sea off Hopeman Harbour in Moray from the school yacht, while a lone student piper plays.

One in six UK adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19

In Scotland, more than 15% of adults have been given two doses of the vaccine.

Geoff Caddick via PA Wire
The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to April 15.

One in six UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with more than two million second doses delivered in the past seven days, latest figures show.

A total of 8.9 million people have now received both jabs – the equivalent of 17.0% of the adult population.

In Scotland, over 15% of the adults have been given two doses, some way behind Wales where an estimated 22.8% have and Northern Ireland (17.2%), with England sitting at 16.8%.

The figures are for vaccinations reported by the UK’s health agencies up to April 15, and reflect the pace at which second doses are being ramped up across the country.

PA Graphics via PA Wire
Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine (PA Graphics).

Some 2.4 million second doses were recorded in the seven days to April 15, compared with 1.6 million, 1.9 million and just under one million in the previous three weeks.

Second doses of Covid-19 vaccines must follow within 12 weeks of the first, meaning the millions of people who received their initial jab in January and early February have recently had a follow-up dose, or are due to get the jab shortly.

People aged 80 and over were among the first groups on the priority list for vaccines, with initial doses offered from early December.

Figures released on Thursday by NHS England suggest around three-quarters of people in England in this age group have now had both doses of vaccine.

In Scotland, 72% of people 80 and over are estimated to have had both jabs, along with 67% in Wales and 41% in Northern Ireland.

Wales leads the field in both first and second doses of vaccine, with nearly two-thirds of its adult population having received the first jab (65.7%), followed by England (61.8%), Scotland (61.4%) and Northern Ireland (58.5%).

Union leaders demand ‘decisive action’ on public sector pay

Bosses at the Scottish Trades Union Congress said workers had lost out on more than £4000.

Andrew Mckenna / EyeEm via Getty Images
More than half of Scotland’s key workers are employed in the public sector.

Union leaders are demanding the next Scottish government take “decisive action” on public sector say – claiming workers have seen salaries fall by 15% in real terms over the last decade.

Bosses at the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said that public sector pay had “lagged behind” inflation since 2011 – adding that for the “typical” worker this meant they had lost out on more than £4000.

With unions warning of possible industrial unrest as a result of the issue, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said that the next Scottish government must “take decisive action to restore public sector pay”.

She spoke out as the organisation published a new briefing paper on pay ahead of its annual congress, which gets under way on Monday.

More than half of Scotland’s key workers are employed in the public sector, it noted.

The STUC also said that the death rate for key workers from coronavirus between March and December 2020 was 40% higher than for the average working-age person.

But it added: “Very few have seen a significant pay increase. A third of Scotland’s 920,000 key workers are paid less than £10 an hour, while women are twice as likely to be key workers than men.”

The STUC said a “significant investment” was needed to restore public sector pay – but added that boosting the wages of workers could help tackle child poverty while also supporting local economies.

It also called on political parties to support power over employment law being devolved to Scotland – saying this would allow ministers here to increase the minimum wage, ban zero-hour contracts and prohibit companies from using controversial fire and rehire policies, which can see workers’ terms and conditions cut.

Ms Foyer said: “The people that have kept our society going over the last year are not hedge fund managers or millionaires. They are cleaners, carers, nurses, supermarket workers, cleansing workers, delivery workers and postal workers.

“They are low-paid, predominantly women, key workers who have risked their health and wellbeing to keep us safe and continue to do so.

“Many of these workers are employed by the public sector or rely on contracts from the public sector and it is in the gift of the next Scottish government to meaningfully increase their pay.”

She added: “We need the next Scottish government to take decisive action to restore public sector pay. These workers have seen real-term wage cuts over the last decade and increasing their pay would narrow the gender pay gap, reduce child poverty, boost local economies, and support inclusive growth from the bottom up.”

Boy charged after teen treated in hospital for injuries

A 16-year-old was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh following an incident in Musselburgh on Friday.

Police Scotland
Charged: Teenage boy charged after 16-year-old injured in Musselburgh.

A 14-year-old boy has been charged after a teenager was injured in Musselburgh. 

Emergency services were called to the town’s High Street just before 2pm on Friday following the incident. 

A 16-year-old boy was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to be treated for his injuries, which were not life-threatening. 

A 14-year old has been charged following the incident. 

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police were called around 1.55pm on Friday, 16 April, 2021 following the report of a disturbance on Musselburgh High Street.

“A 16-year-old male youth was taken by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for treatment to non-life threatening injuries.

“A 14-year-old male youth has been charged in connection with the incident and further enquiries are ongoing into the incident.“


‘Rare and unique’ Mackintosh chairs to be sold at auction

The chairs were specially made for the architect and designer's friend William Douglas in 1910.

Lyon & Turnbull via Lyon & Turnbull
There are two sets of the chairs which were specially made for the architect and designer's friend William Douglas.

Oak dining chairs designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh are to be auctioned live, with the bidding starting at £15,000 for a pair.

There are two sets of the chairs which were specially made for the architect and designer’s friend William Douglas, a house-painter and wallpaper hanger, in 1910.

The two met in Glasgow after Mr Douglas moved from Blairgowrie in Perthshire. Working from premises in West George Street, he built up his business and was employed to work on Mackintosh’s Hous’hill in Nitshill and Miss Cranston’s home among other projects.

Originally part of a set of six and upholstered in horsehair fabric, the chairs were designed the year after the artist completed the second phase of the Glasgow School of Art.

Stained oak dining chairs, specially designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for his friend William Douglas (Lyon & Turnbull)

John Mackie, a director at Lyon & Turnbull and a specialist in design of the time, said:  “The sale represents a rare opportunity to purchase scarce original furniture designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

“Only six of these chairs were made and their design demonstrates Mackintosh’s skill in transforming traditional vernacular forms into something new”.

Bidding for the chairs will start at £15,000 for each pair at the live auction on Thursday, April 22.

Last October, a bedside cabinet by Mackintosh was sold by Lyon & Turnbull for £250,000 after an intense international bidding battle.

Culloden battlefield maps accurately recreate 1746 landscape

Experts say new technology gives the most detailed understanding of the 'harrowing' battle.

NTS via National Trust for Scotland
Culloden hosted the final fight of the rebellion where the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated by the Duke of Cumberland.

Conservationists have accurately recreated the Culloden battlefield using electronic mapping techniques to mark the 275th anniversary of the battle.

Experts say the new technology gives “the most detailed understanding” possible of how the landscape looked in 1746, when the final Jacobite Rising “came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history”.

Culloden, near Inverness, hosted the final fight of the rebellion where the army of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was defeated by a British government force under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

Jacobite supporters had sought to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.

But on April 16, 1746, in the last pitched battle on British soil, around 1500 Jacobites were slain within an hour, crushing the revolt.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said it will unveil the new maps publicly on Saturday at an online event to commemorate the conflict.

Its head of archaeology Derek Alexander said: “These maps give us the most detailed understanding currently possible of how the landscape looked in 1746.

“Thanks to 21st century technology, we can use these to get a feel for what soldiers on the battlefield would actually have been able to see of their opponents, their positions and their weaponry.

“In terms of understanding the tactics and the outcome, it’s a really powerful tool.”

The NTS is currently bidding to get the Culloden battlefield world heritage site status.

If the application to Unesco is successful, it would become the seventh heritage site in Scotland, joining the Antonine Wall, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.

The trust says the site is under “greater threat than ever from developments” including housing and commercial projects.

The new maps have been created by AOC Archaeology, and include layers showing where archaeological excavations have happened over the years and where items have been found, said the trust.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, operations manager at Culloden, said: “These maps aren’t just for the past, they’ll also help us to protect Culloden for the future.

“Their detailed information gives us a clear understanding of how the site has been altered through building and development over the centuries, all of which is invaluable as we strive to retain all that is special about this site that is of such significance to Scotland’s story.”

The event programme can be found here.

Scots soak up sunshine as Covid travel restrictions ease

Parks and seaside resorts busy as groups of up to six adults from six households are now allowed to meet outdoors.

STV News

Some coronavirus travel restrictions have been removed in Scotland and more people are now able to meet up outdoors.

The latest stage in lockdown easing was announced at an unscheduled Covid-19 briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She said the continued decline in virus cases meant the restrictions can be eased earlier than planned.

Scots can now travel across local authority boundaries for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise.

STV News
Cyclists pass a queue at an ice-cream van in Cramond, north-west of Edinburgh.

But they must follow the “stay local” order for other purposes such as non-essential shopping, and travel to some islands is not allowed.

Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with groups of up to six adults from six households now allowed to meet outdoors.

Children under 12 do not count towards the limit.

STV News
Loch Morlich near Aviemore in the Highlands

As the changes took effect, the latest Scottish Government coronavirus figures showed three deaths of Covid patients and 204 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours,

Friday’s data brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7640.

The daily test positivity rate is 1.4%, up from 1.2% on Thursday.

There are now 109 people in hospital in Scotland confirmed to have the virus, down six in 24 hours, and of these 18 patients are in intensive care – up two.

STV News
Largs on Friday, April 16.

A total of 2,722,084 people north of the border have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 688,761 have had their second.

Among those heading further afield on Friday was Andrew McVie, 27, from Glasgow, who told the PA news agency he was “super excited” to be visiting Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae for a cycling day trip for the first time in more than two years.

The clerical assistant said he has enjoyed returning to the scenic island – a short ferry ride from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast – after visiting as a child with his mother.

He said: “I try and go with a bike when I’m free on weekends and day trips, I really enjoy it and it’s dead handy to get to and dead easy to cycle around, you can do it in about two hours if you don’t stop.

STV News
Largs on Friday, April 16.

“It’s why a lot of people like it, there’s great scenery and it’s a really nice, friendly, welcoming place and it’s a beautiful day.

“I’ve missed it so much not being able to go because of the travel restrictions, but I’ll still be taking precautions.

“And tomorrow I’m going through to Edinburgh with a couple of friends for the first time in over a year which will be good.”

STV News
Lochore Meadows in Fife.

The latest lockdown easing comes after barbers and hairdressers opened on April 5 and ahead of a more substantial unlocking of the country on April 26.

On that date, Scotland will move from level four to level three of the four-tier system of restrictions.

Cafes, restaurants and beer gardens can then reopen, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.

Travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be permitted and tourist accommodation can welcome back visitors.

STV News
Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow.

Other restrictions will ease in May and over the summer if Covid-19 continues to be suppressed.

Announcing the measures on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible.

“The improved data does not allow us to throw caution to the wind – not if we are sensible – but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.

STV News
People enjoying the sun and sand in Aberdeen on Friday, April 16.

“So from the end of this week, you will be able to meet up with family and friends who live in different parts of the country.

“Many of those reunions will be long-awaited, and much anticipated. Please do remember that meetings at this stage must still be outdoors – you cannot socialise in people’s homes – and remember due to physical distancing, public transport capacity remains relatively limited.”

But on Thursday, the First Minister told the PA news agency it was “positive” that the easing of travel restrictions had been brought forward, but cautioned Scots not to allow their guard to drop.

STV News
Two people meet together on a bench in Aberdeen.

“Don’t go to crowded places, if you’re headed to a beach or a park and it’s crowded please come away again because crowded places are not safe places to be.

“Please stick to all of the rules and advice, remember your face covering, remember, as I say, to avoid crowded places, hand hygiene, keep your two metre distancing.”

The First Minister added: “As long as we all stick to the advice that’s still in place, this easing of restrictions tomorrow should be the first of many and I think, not least because of the vaccine programme, we can all afford to be just that bit more optimistic right now.”

Puppy stolen during armed robbery reunited with owners

The American Bulldog's owner was threatened with 'bladed weapon' in Glasgow on Wednesday night.

Police Scotland
Nine-week-old Cairo was reunited with his owners on Friday.

An American Bulldog puppy stolen from a home in Glasgow has been reunited with his owners.

Nine-week-old Cairo was taken from Meiklerig Court in Pollok when three men broke in on Wednesday night.

One of the men threatened the homeowner with a “bladed weapon” before stealing the dog.

But the pooch was found in Shettleston on Friday evening.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The dog was found in the Shettleston area and has now been returned to its owners. Enquiries are ongoing into the incident.”

Detective constable Christopher Sneddon, of Police Scotland’s Glasgow CID unit, said on Thursday: “Thankfully nobody has been injured as a result of this incident but the owner has been left evidently shaken. 

“We are appealing to anyone who may have noticed three men acting suspicious in the area to come forward and speak to officers.

“If there is anyone who has possible CCTV or dashcam footage that could assist with our enquiries, please get in touch with police. 

“I would also ask if anyone is approached about buying a puppy similar to this to get in contact with police. 

“Police can be contacted on 101 quoting incident number 3960 on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.”


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