FAKE NEWS: BBC Scotland ‘presents’ figures to suggest agriculture deaths are higher in Scotland when they are lower


No, they are not.

In a report on the BBC Scotland News Network we are presented with the headline:

‘Agriculture deaths ‘higher in Scotland’

I’ll come back to the speech marks. Regardless, the headline is wrong. In fact, agricultural deaths, per head of worker, are lower in Scotland than in the UK as a whole. Given the different size of the worker populations in the two areas being compared, crude figures are meaningless. Only a per capita or ratio figure is statistically meaningful and crucially, informative for the reader.

The article provides the total number of deaths in Scotland as 5 in 2017/18 and 33 in England, in the same year.

In 2016 (most recent figures available) there were 346 000 agricultural workers in the UK and 63 400 in Scotland. Scotland has a larger part of its economy based on agriculture. The sources for these figures are below.

The ratios are thus 5 deaths in 63 400 or 1 in 12 680 in Scotland and 33 deaths in 346 000 or 1 in 10 484 in the UK. The rate of agricultural deaths in Scotland is clearly significantly lower than in the UK.


The BBC article begins by referring to the 5-year average for Scotland, 6.8, and suggests that this is the highest in the UK but does not give the UK or other regional figures for comparison. It goes on to mention only the 2017/18 figure for the UK as a possible comparison. The figure of 5 deaths in 2017/18 in Scotland, is mentioned later.

These questions need answers:

  1. Why, crucially, are we not taking into account the relative numbers working in agriculture before comparing Scotland with parts of Britain? Is that because to do so will make the desired headline wrong?
  2. Why is the comparison of averages not complete?
  3. Why are the averages rather than the 2017/18 figures used to make a comparison for the headline? Was this the only way to get a negative headline?
  4. Given a 5-year average of 6.8 and a 2017/18 figure of 5, agricultural deaths in Scotland must be falling? Why was this not headlined?
  5. Are the speech marks a nervous acknowledgement of the dubious value of the headline claim or an actual quote? None of the sources quoted say that deaths are higher in Scotland.

I despair.

I’ll get a complaint off. Their answers will be fascinating I’m sure.


‘The APS estimates of resident workers in the agricultural sector [UK] for the year to June 2016 was 346,000.’


‘On the 1st June 2016, [in Scotland] there were 63,400 people (headcount) working on agricultural holdings.’




6 thoughts on “FAKE NEWS: BBC Scotland ‘presents’ figures to suggest agriculture deaths are higher in Scotland when they are lower

  1. bigjon999 November 15, 2018 / 9:13 am

    I read the BBC article and immediately noted the lack of death rate compared to numbers in the agricultural sector – thanks for producing the figures and proving them to be lying… again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alasdair Macdonald November 15, 2018 / 5:57 pm

    What is interesting is that they introduced a spurious comparison to give the impression of rigour. They simply divided the English figure by 10 on the basis of overall population, and this gave a ‘higher’ rate for Scotland.


  3. Davy S November 15, 2018 / 6:05 pm

    I can’t believe how they continue to twist information to provide another negative story. Keep on top of them John. You’re doing a sterling job and your efforts are much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gerry Roberrtson November 16, 2018 / 6:30 pm

    The very wonderful James Robertson (no relation)

    If by chance there is no baaaad SNP news any contrived bad news from any source will always come first. Any bad news about any former SNP minister, Councillor or member is always good news no matter where you are or how trivial.

    If there is no good Tory or Labour news where you are any good SNP news will be at the very
    least watered down or distorted and will come last after the lost shaggy dog news.


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