Is Scottish economic growth nearly three times slower than the rest of the UK? Is that significant? Well ‘yes it is’ and ‘no it isn’t’ but you wouldn’t know from BBC Reporting Scotland’s feckless presentation

Programme Name: Hogmanay Live 2015 - TX: 31/12/2015 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Jackie Bird - (C) BBC Scotland - Photographer: Mark Mainz



 Here are Jackie Bird’s words* on Wednesday 12th October at 6:30pm:

‘The closure of the Longannet power station in March cut back Scottish economic output significantly according to the latest figures. It contributed to Scottish growth being three times slower than the UK as a whole over the year to June.’

Here are the actual figures, presented by Douglas Fraser in the broadcast visuals and from the website:

‘Earlier this week, official figures showed output from the Scottish economy grew by 0.4% in the second quarter of this year but lagged behind the UK as a whole. UK output as a whole grew by 0.7% over the same period.’

I’m sure the question marks are bubbling up in your brain too. The Scottish economy is growing 0.3% slower than the UK as a whole and not 3 times slower? I’m not an economist far less a statistician so I’m starting to doubt myself. Have I got this wrong? I better check other sources.

Well yes I had misunderstood but it was no wonder. Here’s the crucial information which Douglas Fraser didn’t tell us, from

‘On an annual basis, compared to the second quarter of 2015, Scottish GDP grew by 0.7 per cent.’

The 0.7% growth for the UK in Quarter 2 of 2016 in the visuals is nothing to do with the 0.7% growth over the year for Scotland, not mentioned or shown but needed along with the 2.2% for the UK over the year, for understanding.  So, it was nothing to do with the 0.3% difference between the Scottish 0.4% and the UK 0.7% for the second quarter of 2016 in Douglas’ visuals. It was based on a comparison he didn’t present the data for or explain at all. Head hurt? Here it is from the Daily Torygraph:

‘The Scottish Government statistics showed that the economy grew by 0.4 per cent between April and June and 0.7 per cent over the year. However, the UK economy grew by 0.7 per cent over the quarter and 2.2 per cent annually.’

Geddit? So between them, Jackie and Douglas show in bright graphics, a 0.3% difference for April to June and tell us it’s ‘three times slower over the year.’ but don’t have a visual for that. More than a few of the learners are going to be confused by this. Further, the lesson is incomplete. It is crucial that the learner is able to evaluate the usefulness of statistics like these. Why were they not told about the limitations of such data and introduced to common reservations about their interpretation? I’m sure we all agree (patronising tone intended) that pupils should not be encouraged to passively absorb statistics but to actively question them. I’m sure (patronising tone intended again), Jackie and Douglas, you have heard the term, attributed by Mark Twain to Benjamin Disraeli: There are three kinds of liesliesdamned lies, and statistics. Just to get you started (same tone) how about these:

‘Is it meaningful to compare the GDP of two countries with quite differing populations and geographies?’

‘Is Scotland’s current GDP evidence that independence would be a mistake or the result of Westminster’s mismanagement of the Scottish economy?’

‘Does GDP tell you anything meaningful about the quality of life or the distribution of wealth within a country?’

Here are two quotes you could use to stimulate research by the pupils and subsequent group discussions:

‘There is a direct correlation between the size of the state and the wealth of the people – the bigger the former, the smaller the latter.’ (Frisby 2014)

‘The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that Scotland at £23,102 had, outside of London and the south east of England, the highest Gross Value Added (GVA) per head of population of any region or nation in the UK.’ (Settle, 2014)

I spent more than 20 years in teaching and in teacher training. So, Ms Bird and Mr Fraser, that’s a clear fail for the presentation of the facts required by the pupils to understand the lesson and a clear fail for the lack of development of the content points required to make the lesson worthwhile in the first place.

*I know, ‘Jackie Bird’s words’. Why did that make you think of this 1964 song by the Trashmen? A-well-a ev’rybody’s heard about the bird bird bird bird / B-bird’s the word oh well-a bird bird bird / Bird is a word oh well-a bird bird bird.’ It didn’t, it was only me?

My survey of the early morning reporting continues. There was nothing to report on the 12th. On the 13th, we had a positive report for the SNP on the conference and report on the Scottish economy’s growth was far more balanced than that of the previous evening. I suppose Jackie and Douglas were still asleep.

Running Total:

Running total 21/9/16 to 13/10/16*                    Number of reports

Bad news for SG/SNP                                                            17

Good news for SG/SNP                                                         7

Bad news for Labour                                                              1

Good news for Labour                                                           5

Bad news for Conservative Party (CP)                              0

Missed bad news opportunities for CP                             143 (estimate)

Good news for CP                                                                   3

* Monday to Friday only




4 thoughts on “Is Scottish economic growth nearly three times slower than the rest of the UK? Is that significant? Well ‘yes it is’ and ‘no it isn’t’ but you wouldn’t know from BBC Reporting Scotland’s feckless presentation

  1. caltonjock October 13, 2016 / 10:47 am

    I get it, I think.but just to be sure. Is it the figures that are lying or the liars that are figuring?


  2. Clydebuilt October 13, 2016 / 11:57 am

    Re last paragraph “report on Scottish economy’s growth was far more balanced than previous evening’s” often find reporting at low audience times is more balanced than at peak times…… They give out different versions depending on the expected audience….. There’s many levels to the deception.


    • johnrobertson834 October 13, 2016 / 12:38 pm

      Good point. Feel I’ve noticed the same just haven’t measured it. Different editor at 6.30pm for the 24 hours news one? Must find out if I can. Also big difference between online and broadcast versions. Radio even worse than TV?


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