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Scotland’s Referendum: Statistical Perspectives


Welcome – Charlie Jeffery, Vice Principal, University of Edinburgh

Speaker: David Walsh, Glasgow Centre for Population Health
Scotland: health, its determinants, and the potential implications of independence. [link to slides]
This presentation will a provide an overview of health in Scotland, both in terms of comparisons with elsewhere in Europe, and in terms of the most pertinent issues within the country itself. It will discuss what is known about the principal determinants of good and bad health in any society, and the potential relevance of independence to those factors in a specifically Scottish context.

Speakers: Jim & Margaret Cuthbert, independent statisticians & economists
Title: The medium is (very much) the message [link to slides]
To a large extent, the debate on Scottish independence is conditioned by the choice of what statistics have been collected, the methods of analysis used, and the way the figures are presented. We will illustrate this with reference to a number of examples, including:
- the annual GERS exercise
- the recent study produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies
- the presentation of debt statistics in the light of quantitative easing
- the Scottish government's claim that the UK is in fact an optimum currency area

15 min break
Speaker: Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician, Scottish Government
Title: The production of official statistics [link to slides]
Roger Halliday will give an overview of the integrated structure of analytical work in the Scottish Government and the context in which it sits. He will describe the impact that statistical work has on a range of policy areas, and highlight the key strategic developments statisticians producing official statistics in Scotland are taking forward. Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, it is a fast moving time, with priorities being: doing more with data, modernising communication, strengthening our impact, developing partnership and maintaining trust in our statistics (a vital aspect in the current climate). He will also share issues for official statistics that the independence referendum leads us to consider.

Speaker: John Curtice, University of Strathclyde
Title: The Performance of the Polls [link to slides]
Unsurprisingly many an opinion poll is being conducted during the referendum campaign. Yet the challenge facing the pollsters is a considerable one. Their polls are having to estimate voters’ propensity to engage in a behaviour that they have not previously measured, to do so in for a population where the practice of regular political polling had stopped, and at a time when the opportunities and challenges of internet polling remain the subject of methodological debate but media budgets are limited. Meanwhile in meeting those challenges the polls have consistently produced divergent estimates of people’s willingness to vote Yes or No.  This talk discusses the various methodologies being used by the polls and the degree to which we can discern how far differences of methodology might account for the divergent results being produced by the polls.

Panel discussion

Continued discussion in Holyrood 9a.
Paul Johnson,
Apr 16, 2014, 4:44 PM
Paul Johnson,
Apr 16, 2014, 4:43 PM