Just in passing… Absentee Westminster MP Conor Murphy on the unreliability of Sammy Wilson’s estimates:
“Mr Wilson insists that the methodology used to produce his figures is identical to those used for Scotland and that they are international standards for the compiling of statistics and have to be adhered to and are subject to a degree of rigour and international scrutiny. He fails to add that when Scotland launched a robust challenge to this methodology it was admitted by British Economists producing the figures that the report ‘was designed to maintain the Union and score (points) over all opponents’.
“Sammy Wilson’s own Department of Finance has repeatedly stated that its figures ‘are not intended to provide an exact figure of individual revenue items’ and are produced: “on the basis of high level assumptions and apportionment factors.”
“British government sources have also admitted that they cannot provide an accurate assessment of the deficit – if there is one – for the north. Therefore it’s time that Mr Wilson desisted from using this disinformation and ‘assumptions and apportionment’ as a comfort blanket to reassure him that the union is safe.
Not sure when the memo to stop using Sammy’s dodgy figures for the party’s own public arguments made the desk of the party’s Oireachtas team, but surely it wasn’t before Pearse Doherty used the old line:
“If you peel back the figures, and this is something that we’ve been doing for quite a period of time, the €10 billion is made up of €6 billion that you wouldn’t actually be spending in an all-Ireland economy,”
And of course we were all having a right old time of it putting on the poor mouth for the cameras, again with Sammy’s figures front and centre…
As Murphy notes:
“NI Statistics and Research Agency’s (NISRA), John Bradley and Tom Healey from the Nevin Institute among other prominent economists have all called for improvements in how these calculations are made. While DFP claim that improving the samples would cost too much, Scotland has a full framework for economic data, the North has no independent methodology to provide accurate information.
“Figures produced by DFP are not recognised by anyone outside the Department while Scottish diligence and determination has made tremendous progress and their figures are accepted by the British Office of National Statistics, while Sammy’s are not.
“It’s time Sammy got past ‘assumptions and apportionment’ and demanded proper statistics along with real fiscal powers that would allow us to grow our economy”.
So, no more economic figures in the battle for a border poll Conor? It at least has the virtue of binning another weak card in the argument for unification of the island.
Perhaps foregrounding a divisive debate about a border poll in which you have no weapons that can be relied upon NOT to backfire is not, after all, the best way to promote a unity of the people argument?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty