Black and White

Black and White

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Statistics and Lies – who can tell the difference?

Harold Wilson once said ‘a week is a long time in politics’ with the Scottish independence debate he could have been describing a day… This week has been busy and we should probably heed his other words “I’m an optimist who carries a raincoat”.
If optimism was what you were looking for the week the official campaign kicked off for independence it was hard to find in claim and counter claim.

The week started off with the Scottish Government lowering its own estimates for oil and gas revenues… Down they went by a staggering £1.3 billion at the low end and at the upper end of £2.9 billion (between £2.9bn and £7.8bn in 2016/17 versus their previous figure of between £4.2bn and £10.7bn for the same period as published last year)…

A. This is a major change in economic forecasting and B. The variance between the upper and lower forecasts are massive… What will either scenario do to the affordability of independence?

John Swinney noted the central prediction showed Scotland benefitting from £34.3 billion – a tad more than the The Office for Budget Responsibility (a UK agency) who expect just £15.8bn over the five years – staggeringly less than half Scottish forecasts. How can eminent public servants arrive at such disparate predictions – perhaps we deserve better?
Who do we believe or do we just plump for the middle figure and hope for the best? Email us who you believe and why and we’ll post the best answer as we certainly don’t know…

Meantime if you thought forecasting and modeling was an easy game those stars in the UK Treasury we depend on to run our (UK) country’s finances moved from blunder to blunder, a half baked cheesecake of analysis that deserves an apology… So too do the Scottish Government for not giving us their calculations of just how much its going to cost us to go independent. An embarrassment to democracy both of them some might say…

It is not credible for the Scottish Government not to tell us their forecast on the set up costs for an independent Scotland – don’t they have them? Are we expected to vote on the biggest decision in the UK’s life without meaningful analysis on what this might cost?

This is how the story went:

The summary is in essence this – stay with the Union and you’ll be £1400 better off; vote for independence and you net £1000 as an individual with Scotland gaining a £ 5 billion windfall in 2029-30.

The evidence, should you care to read two markedly differing assumptions on Scotland’s future are contained in the Scottish and UK Government documents below.

On the costs of Scotland setting up on its own the HM Treasury firstly included the figure of £2.7 billion then in a volte face indicated that was an unofficial figure. You may ask why is a Government Department issuing unofficial figures?

They then issued the number of £ 1.5 billion after the assumptions they’d made on £2.7 billion were rounded upon by the economist who they based the numbers on, Patrick Dunleavy. Mr. Dunleavy a reputable LSE economist tweeted:

UK Treasury press release on #Scotland costs of government badly misrepresents LSE research.

HM Treasury then claimed the £1.5 billion was grounded in the work of one Professor Robert Young of Quebec… Professor Young took no time at all in telling the Financial Times that the estimate was not his but an extrapolation from top end estimates from academics researching the cost of Quebec separating from Canada. (I believe we are talking about Scotland voting on independence…)

You could not make this up. Meantime the Scottish Government was asked thirteen times on radio just how much it would cost to set up the machinery for an independent Scotland; unedifyingly there was no answer forthcoming.

To take a decision, I’m afraid we need answers…

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