The strong growth demonstrated in the latest GDP figures for Scotland is clearly to be welcomed. Welcome too is the attainment of the pre-recession peak, finally, after six years.
However, what has pulled me out from under the olive trees and the hot Tuscan sun to write this blog is the reporting of the latest data by the UK and Scottish media. I have no desire to talk the Scottish economy down, but a lot of the comment by politicians in the media reports is not supported by the evidence.
The key point is the data do not show that the Scottish economy is growing faster than the UK economy as a whole. Yes, Scottish GDP growth was 1% while UK GDP growth was 0.8% in the first quarter, but the stronger Scottish performance was very much due to the Grangemouth effect as the plant came back on stream in the first quarter after being shut down for a period due to the well-reported dispute in October of last year. In the fourth quarter, UK growth was 0.6% while Scottish growth was only 0.2%, again the difference in favour of the UK was largely due to the effect of Grangemouth.
If we compare Scottish and UK growth since the third quarter of last year we see Scottish growth averaging 0.59% per quarter over the two quarters while UK growth is faster at 0.73% per quarter.
Nor is it reasonable to crow, as John Swinney is quoted as doing, that Scotland has attained its pre-recession peak one quarter earlier than the UK. This may be correct but it says nothing about the relative Scottish recovery from recession because it fails to take into account that the depth of the recession was much greater in the UK than in Scotland. UK GDP fell by -7.4% in the Great Recession while Scottish GDP fell by -5.6%. In the light of these figures the UK recovery has still been faster than the Scottish recovery.
The moral is: don't just listen to politicians look at the data!