It’s like they’re actually writing the jokes for us.
This was Alistair Darling on last night’s Newsnight Scotland:
And it wasn’t just a casual slip of the tongue, because he’d said the same thing only minutes earlier on Scotland Tonight:
Here it is again, back in April at the COSLA conference:
And in March in the Scotsman:
The actual population of Scotland is 5.29 million. If you wanted to round it off to a short soundbite, it’s an awful lot closer to five million than it is to six million. And as that 5.29m figure has grown by just 0.5m in the last 100 years, it seems safe to say we’re still a very long way away from Darling’s estimate – at that rate of growth, Scotland won’t break the 6m barrier until somewhere around 2162.
Alistair Darling is a Scottish MP and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, so it’s a bit worrying that his grasp of such basic statistics about Scotland is so far off the mark. And the really weird thing is that he’s not even misrepresenting reality in the “right” direction – if his goal is to make Scotland’s population seem small compared to the UK’s, thereby emphasising the benefits of spreading the burden wider by staying in the Union, the smart (and less inaccurate) move would be to round DOWN to 5m, not up.
The only explanation we can think of is that as the chairman of “Better Together”, the wild inflation of figures is so ingrained and habitual that he just can’t help himself.