For "medium" in the above, substitute "statistical collection and analysis"



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The medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. A medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

  • The medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. A medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.



For “medium” in the above, substitute “statistical collection and analysis”.

  • For “medium” in the above, substitute “statistical collection and analysis”.

  • We will argue that the debate has been profoundly influenced by these factors, and not just by the content.

  • While the examples we give are related to the referendum debate, the conclusions we draw are of much wider relevance.



Annual publication first produced 1992.

  • Annual publication first produced 1992.

  • Politically inspired. Ian Lang to John Major:-

  • “I judge that it is just what is needed at present in our campaign to maintain the initiative and undermine the other parties. This initiative could score against all of them.”



Headlined gross deficit: did not split into current deficit and net investment.

  • Headlined gross deficit: did not split into current deficit and net investment.

  • The headline deficit excluded NS revenues: on spurious grounds.

  • Many errors: e.g., in treatment of expenditure non-identifiable within the regions of England.

  • Under resourced: much data from secondary sources.



“The primary objective is to create accounts for the inflow of resources to Scotland and the outflow of resources from Scotland that are directed through the UK Government’s budgetary process.” (GERS 2001/02)

  • “The primary objective is to create accounts for the inflow of resources to Scotland and the outflow of resources from Scotland that are directed through the UK Government’s budgetary process.” (GERS 2001/02)



The existence of GERS, and the failure to produce, (up until very recently), any coherent account of the flows of revenues into and out of Scotland which are not related to government, has had a profound effect in channelling political debate.

  • The existence of GERS, and the failure to produce, (up until very recently), any coherent account of the flows of revenues into and out of Scotland which are not related to government, has had a profound effect in channelling political debate.



OBR set up in 2010.

  • OBR set up in 2010.

  • Has duty laid upon it by its charter to produce forecasts of the economy.



Heavily judgement based: (e.g., size of output gap.)

  • Heavily judgement based: (e.g., size of output gap.)

  • In a critical respect, assumes success of policy: (i.e., that by the end of the forecast period, inflation is stable, and economy is operating on trend growth line).

  • Limited assessment of risk.



No: these characteristics are almost implicit in the role which has been given to OBR, namely, to produce forecasts.

  • No: these characteristics are almost implicit in the role which has been given to OBR, namely, to produce forecasts.

  • Forecasting in a policy influenced environment will almost always assume success of policy.

  • In forecasting, the timing and nature of “black swan” events cannot be predicted, so usually neglected.



Detailed set of reports produced last November, examining public finances of an independent Scotland.

  • Detailed set of reports produced last November, examining public finances of an independent Scotland.

  • Starting point was OBR forecasts of UK GDP growth.



As we have argued, the OBR forecasts understate UK risks.

  • As we have argued, the OBR forecasts understate UK risks.

  • So taking the OBR forecast for the UK as a given immediately shifts the debate to the risks surrounding the Scottish economy – inherently biasing the debate.



A fundamental question for debt sharing.

  • A fundamental question for debt sharing.

  • Official statistics quite clear: £1185 billion in 2012-3: (OBR, March 2013.)

  • But this neglects quantitative easing:

  • “Britain…is in effect wiping out public debt worth 20% to 25% of GDP – on the sly.”

  • (Ambrose Evans Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, March 11 2014.)



Fiscal Commission set up by Scottish Government:-

  • Fiscal Commission set up by Scottish Government:-

  • Whether two areas constitute an optimal currency area depends upon a range of factors such as the degree of trade, capital and labour mobility, wage and price flexibility and common productivity levels.”

  • Concluded that Scotland close to being an OCA with rUK.



A more refined analysis would look at whether the UK itself constituted an OCA: and, given that the UK suffers very marked inter regional and inter-group disparities, such an analysis might well come to a different conclusion.

  • A more refined analysis would look at whether the UK itself constituted an OCA: and, given that the UK suffers very marked inter regional and inter-group disparities, such an analysis might well come to a different conclusion.



Choice of what data or analysis to produce has indeed had a profound effect on the resulting debate.

  • Choice of what data or analysis to produce has indeed had a profound effect on the resulting debate.

  • Given that statistical activity depends on resources, and that resources are ultimately determined by political decisions, honest statisticians may nevertheless find themselves producing material which is inherently political.



Is it an answer to have independent statistical organisations?

  • Is it an answer to have independent statistical organisations?

  • Unfortunately, no. Because they are particularly prone to inertia: a tendency to get caught up in yesterday’s mental constructs, even if they are not what is required for today: (e.g., national accounting framework inadequate to understand financialisation of economy.)



Statisticians need to be:-

  • Statisticians need to be:-

  • Much more conscious of the effects which choice of what data is collected, and of analysis technique, have in conditioning debate.

  • Much more pro-active in setting the statistical agenda, to meet the problems of the future, and not the past.



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