Mr Dewar said:
'Public spending in Scotland is rightly an area which attracts a great deal of attention from politicians, economists, the media and the general public.
'Every year the Scottish Office produces detailed reports on spending which are prepared to an exacting standard and in accordance with methodologies accepted by successive governments. The work is painstaking and highly complex but essential to produce data which offers parliament and the public a credible and authoritative picture of where taxpayers' money goes.
Is there a deficit? How much is the government spending on health, education etc) are a key part of the democratic process. The Scottish Office approach is rigorous and this government is committed to monitoring and improving the quality and objectivity of the data in order to underpin public confidence.
'I reject absolutely any suggestion that these figures are inaccurate or misleading.
'It is abundantly clear from the figures that Scotland currently has a
significant fiscal deficit. In short, we spend more than we get in. The Government Expenditure and Revenues (GERS) for 1995-96 shows this position beyond doubt. The methodology for this set of figures was established in 1992 and has commanded widespread support among public expenditure experts.
'Equally, spending by other government departments in Scotland is measured using the GERS methodology. Calculations by the treasury
deploy exactly the same method. Any suggestion that spending by other
departments in Scotland has been over-estimated is not borne out by the figures.'