The Business of Data

Data is the largest natural resource in the world, and it’s growing year upon year. Acess to good quality data is vital for Scotland’s financial well-being.

Starting a business takes a considerable amount of time, dedication and planning (almost a bit like a blog!). The best opportunities can be squandered completely if the you isn't suitably prepared. A business plan is absolutely vital, not just from a strategy perspective but also if you wish to pursue other sources of funding, you've then got market research which will give an idea of the what, why and where to sell your product or service. You've then got to have financial projections, profit and loss graphs and a whole bunch of other things to consider.

This is barely skimming the surface when it comes to business planning, but I want to go back to the market research. What if your market research is inaccurate? What if the weeks you spent developing a business plan all fail because of some dodgy statistics? What if, god forbid, a country had inaccurate statistics on its ‘market’? 

One of the most important tools, for any society or business, is good quality data. It needs to be clear and easy to understand, or else, how can we make the best decisions for our country and those living in it?

One of the problems that Scotland currently has is a lack of clarity on its own economic data. Instead we get the Government Expenditure Revenue Scotland (GERS) report which is flawed for two reasons.

1. It takes a snapshot of the Scottish economy as part of the UK. Therefore, it’s effectively useless to assume an independent Scotland would reflect that. On the subject of GERS Global financial giant, Deloitte published, "GERS data is produced for Scotland as part of the UK - It does not model scenarios for an independent Scotland in which the Scottish government would be enabled to make its own fiscal choices."


2. Richard Murphy, political economist and chartered accountant, spoke at a hearing in the Scottish Parliament where he stated: "The amount that's known about Scottish taxation is very little indeed - inside GERS 25 of the 26 income figures are estimates."
 

Keeping those two rather glaring flaws in mind, there is a position regularly touted by supporters of the union which doesn’t hold up. Special thanks to David Torrance for posting this response to this article in the National.

 

 

Because GERS is produced by the Scottish Government, it’s relatively easy for people like David to flippantly chuck tweets like that out. But it fails to address where the GERS data actually comes from. It comes from HMRC, and as stated above, 25 out of 26 income figures are estimates.

 

So what are the consequences when a government doesn't have the correct data? We get nightmares like Westminster basing their immigration policy on estimations that students overstaying their visa was at around 90,000. The real number was 4,600. This shambles of a statistic shaped the way Westminster created policy as well as how the media presented it to the people. Whether this was a deliberate manipulation of data to pursue an aggressive immigration policy is open to interpretation.


If we're serious about this independence thing, and I'd like to think we all are, it's important that we go into the next referendum with a Scottish government armed with accurate data. Of course, this should be something that every political party in the Scottish Parliament should want.

 

Therefore a Scottish Statistics Agency seems to be an obvious decision to make. And there should be questions asked when people don’t want Scotland to have good quality data.