A few weeks ago, my curiosity was piqued by a tweet from right-wing broadcaster Andrew Neil, as follows:
Is this "sewage-related debris" material that has washed up in Scotland after discharges in England?
— Vox Political (@VoxPolitical) September 2, 2023
It was an innocent question; I don’t know anything about tidal flows between England and Scotland (why should I?), and there really is an awful lot of ordure being pumped into English waters right now.
The response I received was astonishing – particularly in political terms. Example:
Jesus christ, that's desperate even for a Nat.
— Xavier Ruprecht (@RuprechtXavier) September 2, 2023
I'm fascinated to learn from the responses to my innocent question that I'm a Scottish Nationalist, despite opposing Scottish independence. Makes me question any other information coming from such biased sources.
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) September 2, 2023
It turns out I was right to question this information; I was just mistaken about the basis for questioning it.
Thankfully we have Martin Odoni of The Critique Archives to put us straight.
Here he is:
Note the pains Neil goes to quite needlessly to stress that the authority responsible for overseeing sewer overflows is a nationalised utility, subtly encouraging readers to imagine that the problem is caused by ‘inefficient public industry.’ But also, look closely at his claim and see if you can spot where he might be fiddling the arithmetic.
Sewage-related debris made up 17.9 per cent of litter on beaches in Scotland, compared with an average of 8.9 per cent on beaches throughout the UK in 2022.
What the MCS have actually found is that there is an eight-times-higher proportion of sewage-debris in the litter on Scottish beaches than in the litter on English or Welsh beaches. That would only mean there is eight times as much sewage on Scottish beaches as on English ones if there is exactly the same quantity of litter on Scottish beaches. The ‘eight-times-the-proportion’ figure does not substantiate the claim that there is eight times the total.
It seems the real difficulty that the MCS was trying to draw attention to is there is a lack of monitoring of sewage outlets in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK, so we do not actually know the accurate amount of sewage debris on Scottish beaches, or even of litter in general.
There does appear to be proportionally more litter on Scottish beaches (492 items per 100m) than on English beaches (309 per 100m), but that information only comes from volunteer clean-up operations and so is unscientific.
“Moreover,” Mr Odoni adds,
the English coastline is 2,748 miles long. The Scottish coastline is well over twice as long at 6,160 miles, due to the considerably greater ‘zig-zagging’ of Scottish beaches and the extensive peninsulae, which would substantially mitigate the bare amounts of litter involved.
This is not to say that Scotland doesn’t have a sewage-related litter problem:
On balance from what information there is, there probably is somewhat more sewage-debris on Scottish beaches than on English ones.
But This Writer can wholeheartedly join with Mr Odoni in suggesting:
The snake-ish attempt by Neil to give the impression that it is eight times higher, and that purely to smear nationalised companies, is a vintage example of how misleading his brand of ‘journalism’ is.
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Be among the first to know what’s going on! Here are the ways to manage it:
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the right margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical
3) Like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VoxPolitical/
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at http://voxpoliticalonline.com
5) Join the uPopulus group at https://upopulus.com/groups/vox-political/
6) Join the MeWe page at https://mewe.com/p-front/voxpolitical
7) Feel free to comment!
And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!
If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.
The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: