Early today and six times before 9:00 am, BBC Scotland’s insert in the Breakfast show, announced:
‘BBC Scotland has found people addicted to drugs are having to wait up to six months for treatment including for methadone prescriptions. Figures show that only 42% of problem drug users are in treatment compared to 60% in England. The Scottish Government says it is investing additional money in drug treatment and that the 42% figure may not represent the full picture.’
So, this damaging and deceptive comparison of Scotland with England, of the kind which Yes supporters are often derided for doing themselves, is repeated six times. This is a time when audiences are more likely to be made anxious and to be influenced by bad news and so the propagandising effect is more powerful that at, say, 6:30pm. See this for evidence on that:
The story is told in greater detail on the website, but this too leads with the same claims plus additional personal accounts to further dramatize the BBC claims. It is only after we read deep into the report that we find:
‘In England the number of opioid users in treatment was about 60% – but there were some differences in how the figures were compiled.’
This highlights one of the key problems with the BBC’s comparison of Scotland with England. Are the Scottish Government’s figures actually comparable with the English figures? The difficulty in making in any comparison is compounded by the failure to source the English or, indeed, the Scottish data.
Update: The Scotland/England comparison was dropped for Reporting Scotland at 1:30pm.
However, the English figures are clearly of opioid users only whereas the Scottish figures are of all problem drug users. Is it not possible, even likely, that the percentage of all drug users being treated in England, will be less than 60% or that the percentage of opioid users only being treated in Scotland will be more than 42%?
If the Scottish figures include benzodiazepines (eg Diazepam), methamphetamine (Crystal Meth), cannabis and cocaine and the English figures do not, then the comparison made by BBC Scotland is more than questionable. I understand that the first group, benzodiazepines, can be more addictive than opioids and thus more difficult to treat, making their inclusion n the Scottish figures a key constraint on the usefulness of the BBC’s research and there is hard evidence that this is true. See:
‘This data cannot be directly compared to Scotland due to differences in the definitions and source datasets (opiate and/or crack cocaine use in England versus opiate and/or benzodiazepine use in Scotland).’
The above seems to confirm that English and Scottish data are based upon different sets with the Scottish data, only, including the highly addictive benzodiazepines.
Further, neither the broadcast nor the online reports bothered to conxtextualise the figures with this important fact:
‘[T]he rate of high risk drug users in Scotland is double the rate for England’
If the problem is far greater, overall, in Scotland than in England, viewers should have been told this. This casts BBC Scotland’s already dubious comparison of Scotland with England, finally into the dustbin of research.
Is this the beginning of another media campaign, weaponizing drug problems? We had this only a few days ago:
‘Drug users in Scotland ‘consume most cocaine’ in one session’
The claim was demolished here:
Finally, I’ve been monitoring the early morning broadcasts for several weeks now and I am in a good position to observe any change in the climate following on from announcements such as a date for Indyref2 or, even, the recent announcement by the First Minister of the publication of the SNP’s economic growth commission report later this week.
Footnote: My report was produced well-before Reporting Scotland was broadcast. Any improvements in that do not remove my concerns about these earlier and potentially very influential pieces of propaganda.
Footnote 2: Why is serious drug abuse twice as high in Scotland? Has dependency on the Union been bad for us in some way?