Tag Archives: journo

BAD HACKS: Andrew Neil is a sewage snake | TheCritique Archives

Andrew Neil: his slant on sewage-related litter on Scottish beaches smacks of deliberate misinformation.

A few weeks ago, my curiosity was piqued by a tweet from right-wing broadcaster Andrew Neil, as follows:

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:

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.

The Times offers a similar spin on this in its headline, but look closer at the text, and you soon realise we are being deliberately misled.

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.

– The Times

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.

Source: Andrew Neil is a sewage snake | TheCritique Archives

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