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:
- 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?
- Why is the comparison of averages not complete?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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’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.’