This is a story in the Herald today.
Thing is, we know it’s a lie. Who says so? Kezia Dugdale does.
Because just 17 months ago, she told Scotland On Sunday that her branch office’s membership was a whopping 9,000 higher than she says it is now.
This morning, using the exact same terminology as then – “members and registered supporters” – she put that figure more modestly at “in excess of 20,000”. (30,000 can of course be accurately described as “in excess of 20,000” but Wednesday’s Herald had been helpfully more precise about what that figure meant, specifying 21,000.)
“We have in excess of 20,000 members and registered supporters of the Labour Party here in Scotland – it’s higher now than it has been since, I think, 1997.”
(Good Morning Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland, 24 February 2017)
Plainly it can’t be the highest since 1997 if it’s not even the highest since 2015. It’s utterly mystifying to us why Dugdale persists in telling such painfully transparent lies, as if nobody’s going to remember or check, so we’ll just leave this here to help her.
But she wasn’t alone in falsehoods today. Experienced truth-mangler Jackie Baillie gave a speech to the Scottish Labour conference in which she claimed 120,000 jobs “across Scotland” had been lost “since the SNP promised a second oil boom” prior to the independence referendum, apparently having mixed up the SNP and David Cameron.
We thought we’d give that a quick check. The Scotsman front cover was from the end of February 2014. Scottish unemployment for January-March 2014 was 178,000.
The most recent figure, for September to November 2016? Despite a rise of 11,000 over the three-month period, it stood at 139,000.
Alert readers will have noticed that that’s a FALL of 39,000 rather than the increase of 120,000 claimed by Baillie. She was a mere 159,000 jobs out. Employment was also up over the period, from 2,585,000 to 2,604,000 – an increase of 19,000.
But we have to admit that we’ve been a little bit disingenuous with you there, readers. Because it’s true that then-SNP leader Alex Salmond did also posit the possibility of a second oil boom, in March 2013. (We just thought it was worth making the point that he was hardly alone in having a positive outlook about oil before the referendum.)
The problem for Jackie Baillie is that if you start counting from the spring of 2013 the numbers get even worse for her, because Scottish unemployment for February-April 2013 was even higher than it was a year later, at 194,000.
Since Salmond said that, unemployment in Scotland has dropped by 55,000. Baillie’s claim is now 175,000 jobs out – more than the current total of Scottish unemployment. And employment is up by a whopping 74,000 over the period.
Of course, it’s possible that some high-skilled and well-paid jobs, particularly in the oil sector, will have been lost and replaced with lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs. But there’s no actual evidence for that. The median salary in Scotland for 2014 was £27,045 and it rose by 2.5% in 2015 – the year of the oil price crash – to £27,710, and it grew again in 2016 in line with inflation, to £27,953.
Well-paid work appears to have moved rather than vanished. And while the Aberdeen area has unquestionably suffered a downturn, as is the nature of the oil business, it remains in the top pay category for Scotland by region and is likely to pick up again soon, with the oil price having more than doubled since early 2016.
In short, then, Dugdale and Baillie were unequivocally and knowingly lying. The facts are all on the record – and in Dugdale’s case straight out of her own mouth – and it’s not credible to suggest that either politician didn’t know them.
With two days of the Scottish Labour conference still to go, we wish we could be sure that there wasn’t a lot more to come.