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Wings Over Scotland

The magnifying glass

Posted on March 03, 2013 by

The NHS in Scotland is failing. If you don’t believe us, have a look at this graph that’s currently doing the social-media rounds courtesy of our “Better Together” friends (and was forwarded to us by an alert and concerned reader) and you’ll surely be convinced.


The graphs represent cases where NHS Scotland has failed to meet the targets imposed for processing patients through the A&E departments of Scottish hospitals within four hours (left graph) and 12 hours (right graph). If you want to read the full report for yourself it’s on the ISD Scotland website here.

(The figures only go back to July 2007, as previous Labour/Lib Dem administrations didn’t record them – they’re an initiative of the subsequent SNP governments.)

Now, that 323 people in a month had to wait over 12 hours for treatment is factually correct, and it’s plainly a bad thing. (The Scottish Government noted that this winter’s unprecedentedly severe norovirus outbreak was both a major contributing factor in itself and also had knock-on effects, and as norovirus requires extensive cleanup and disinfection procedures in order to meet infection-control standards it’s a valid point.)

There’s a vital piece of information missing, though.

It’s that those 323 cases represented only 0.2% of all A&E admissions in the period concerned – or in other words 99.8% of all patients admitted to Scottish A&E departments in December were treated within the 12-hour timeframe.

(We also, incidentally, can’t say what the actual waiting times were within the two limits – someone who wasn’t treated within four hours but was dealt with in less than 12 might in reality have been seen after four hours and five minutes – but as the figures don’t give that information there’s nothing much we can do about it, so we’ll move on.)

On the tougher target of treating admissions within four hours, the success rate was 90.3%. The figure quoted in the first graph of 12,874 patients not being attended to within the four-hour target is presented in isolation, rather than being set against the 120,070 patients who were treated in the target time. That’s not an accident, though it’s certainly an attempt to manufacture an emergency.

The graphs are an indication of how true information can be presented in a misleading way. The trick is to divorce the figures from context and thereby enormously magnify out of all proportion what are in fact tiny differences, as if seen through a microscope. A particularly extreme (and less serious) example of the phenomenon was seen in Scottish newspapers just a few weeks ago:


The “graph” above has in fact been grossly distorted as well as decontextualised, but the principle it utilises is the same as the one the No camp is using with the health figures. Let’s try another way of presenting those four-hour stats (the graph on the left of our original pic), this time putting them in their full and proper perspective.


It looks a wee bit less dramatic with all the information in place, doesn’t it? Now let’s try the same thing with the 12-hour graph, the raw data for which can be studied here. (You’ll find the relevant figures in the first four columns of the tab “ChartData3”.)


With the context removed by Johann Lamont, Jackie Baillie and Ruth Davidson (and the Scotsman) restored, the “Scottish NHS collapsing about our ears under the incompetent SNP!” narrative takes on a somewhat less apocalyptic character.

Depending on the reader’s individual level of cynicism, the newspaper in question is either simply trying to exaggerate a story in order to sell more copies, or is collaborating politically with the anti-independence parties in a concerted drive to smear the SNP – or more particularly the former health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, now the party’s referendum minister and recently found to be the most popular politician in Scotland – and by extension the Yes movement as a whole, suggesting that if Scots vote for independence we’ll be too incompetent to run our hospitals and all our grannies will die on trollies in corridors. The reality is rather different.

While even exceptional and essentially-unpreventable spikes in patients waiting hours for treatment are distressing, the truth is that the service is coping remarkably well under both the long-term stresses of budget pressures and the short-term effect of one-off issues like the norovirus outbreak. Whether it can continue to do so if Scotland remains in the Union is another matter entirely.

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    1. 11 09 15 23:10

      Carolyn Scott: The Culture of Lying in Election Campaigns | NewsShaft

    65 to “The magnifying glass”

    1. mrbfaethedee says:

      Spooky, I just posted a link to a youtube infographic, for a couple of reasons, but one was the importance of well presented visualizations (inc graphs) to to highlight things. Obviously, like all tools, they can be used for various purposes.
      In case this thread gets into any discussion of the representations themselves, i’ll repost the youtube link here again if that’s ok –

      I liked how they showed not just the actual wealth distribution, but also what people believed it was, and what they thought was an ‘ideal’ distribution. Powerful stuff IMO.

    2. Paul Martin says:

      Great work there Scott. Your understanding and analysis is right on the money. I used to work in health research and know full well how the same patient data can be both represented and misrepresented. Again congrats on this, first rate.

    3. M4rkyboy says:

      Aye,they see things differently in the Unionist camp.

    4. Doug Daniel says:

      I get really annoyed at graphs showing data in distorted ways. But at least we can see what the division of workload is in Better Together:
      Tories supply the money
      Labour supply the people
      Lib Dems supply the graphs

    5. Inbhir Anainn says:

      Good article Scott let’s hope a copy of said graphs wings there way over to Bute House.

    6. Silverytay says:

      As someone who has had to rely on the Scottish Health Service all his life it really pisses me off when people try to use it to score cheap political points .  Our Health Service is not perfect but when you need it most you are glad it is there . These scare stories and misinformation are actually doing a great disservice to all the people who work in the Health Service . The majority of people who have had to use our A & E services accept that there are people in there who’s need is greater than their own . In a nutshell I hope these lies and scare stories come back to bite our unionist friends in the bum big time . 

    7. Barontorc says:

      Statisitics and graphs and smoke and mirrors and lying toads are what this electorate is faced with and only those prepared to look behind it all will see the rubbish for what it is.
      What can you say of the Lib-Dem ‘victory’ in Eastleigh? There are serious numpties being allowed to vote? There lies a political system in utter decay?
      What would they do if they had a choice such as the SNP? Do they protest so much even UKIP looks reasonable?
      What chance for Labour ever catching-up, if they cannot even make voters turn to them with all this decrepit Lib-Dem stuff floating around under their noses?
      And lastly – the NO campaigners want us Scots to stick with these gutter politics, to join up to a system that even Screaming Lord Such would put a dent into, if he only had the backing!
      Lord preserve us, for we know not what we do – indeed!

    8. Macart says:

      You’d think the people being caught in the middle of all this misinformation (NHS staff), would get a wee bit pissed off with Labour using them so blatantly. Were I on NHS staff clocking up the hours and the effort and some lying piece work kept misrepresenting my work to the general public for point scoring exercises, I’d be more than a little miffed with that party. Oddly though we rarely hear the NHS side of these stories. Be interesting to hear the views of NHS Scotland on the tarring they’re receiving from the political arena.

    9. orkers says:

      Rangers are in Division 3 and have sold more season tickets to their Fans than they did in the previous two seasons. It’s very simple arithmetic and bears no correlation to the bogus NHS graph. Your pal Dougie Daniel was exhibiting similar desperation recently, but you seem to have exceeded him with this Stu.
      Stop being obsessional about a Club and group of people you hate. It does you no favours.

    10. grrth says:

      Not wishing to be negative and recognising that the figures have been distorted, they are still factually correct.
      It may have been more interesting to compare the data to the same stats without the norovirus or against stats from other regions or countries.
      These are also somewhat arbitary deadlines and it would be useful to understand whether it was down to prioritisation of more serious cases or whether it was driven by an increase in a particular area or hospital for example.
      I suppose I am saying it would be useful to understand the context.
      However it would also useful to adress that if there is no context to explain the increase the fact that NHS Scotland is not just a regional offshoot of the NHS UK allows for a more localised response to the issue.

    11. Caroline Corfield says:

      For information here are the equivalent stats for England, this link is specifically to the last week Jan, though the 4hrs time is described as the time between arrival and admission, transfer or discharge ( so not entirely sure when you are assessed in that process) and it shows 94.2%. As for 12 hours, that 4 out of 422,000.

    12. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      The numbers given are correct, and the trend is going down for 4 hour admissions seen to but its not the tradgedy they are trying to make out in the published graph. They are deliberately trying to paint a bleaker picture than reality.

      Its also not a coincidence either that the trend downwards started after the condems came to power and the Scottish government had to position itself for cuts coming down the line.

      At the end of the day though, the self imposed targets were not met and this needs addressed but one thing is for sure, with Westminster trying to privatise the NHS in England we are going to see some large reductions in Barnett consequentials if we remain in the Union.

      Were not likely to see improvements set against a background of increasing social deprivation and cuts to funding.

      If we can cut free of the economic and welfare policies of Westminster then we could start to make a real positive impact using our own resources to benefit our own people.

    13. Ted says:

      The difference between season 2010/11 and season 2011/12 is -141.  Between 2011/12 and 2012/13 is +247.  Difference between 2010/11 and 2012/13 is +106.  Ally’s advertising does display an error in proportionality. It is simple arithmetic and is similar to the NHS graph, in the way it seeks to distort the true figures.  You are the one being obsessional by claiming the victim mentality.  Even your heroes can be wrong! 

    14. cath says:

      “You’d think the people being caught in the middle of all this misinformation (NHS staff), would get a wee bit pissed off with Labour using them so blatantly”
      I work in the NHS at the moment and, yes, it pisses me off no end that the NO parties use it for cheap point scoring. But it also really concerns me in terms of patient care and safety.
      The problem public health systems have – and it was the same down south – is that the more transparent they are on things like error rates, adverse incidents and problems – the more ammunition it gives right wing politicians and media for bashing them as somehow “failing” even if this is far from the case.
      Try and find rates of harm or waiting times or anything else from the US system for example – they don’t exist and are certainly higher than here.
      Improving quality needs transparency and needs honesty and for figures for where things aren’t working to be recorded, examined, published and worked on. NHS Scotland is actually hugely innovative on this, and the SNP government have been putting in place quite a radical agenda for improvement and integration with social care.

      From the US based Institute for Healthcare Improvement: The Scottish Patient Safety Programme, marks Scotland as a leader, second to no nation on earth, in its commitment to reducing harm to patients, dramatically and continually.”
      It really concerns me things like this which are trying to (and often do) improve patient care will end up being stopped because they’re never reported in a good, positive way, but only give ammunition to political opponents to use against the NHS itself in a privatising agenda, or now used against the SNP and independence campaign in a “yous’re all just shite” way.

    15. cath says:

      Same with targets, btw. Targets can reduce waiting times but also provide ammunition. How high were A&E waiting times under Labour? We don’t know because they didn’t record them. Start recording them and they can be used against you. Start reducing them and the graph of “shown within target time” shows an upward trend even if the times are coming down.
      What do the opposition parties actually want? A shitty health service that’s not transparent, records nothing and doesn’t try to improve because that would involve accepting where there are problems? That’s pretty much what the NHS in England will be like post-privatisation, because that’s what corporations are like. Only a public health service, owned and accountable to the people needs to be transparent and actually serve those people.

    16. Vronsky says:

      Transparency is great, but targets can be double-edged. Recall the hospital in England that lowered the mortality rate in some surgical procedures simply by refusing to treat any patients  they thought were poor bets for survival – so they died, but not from a procedure which might have saved them.  Targets have way of being met in ways not intended when they were set. I worked for a hi-tech company which set itself a target of zero parts per million defective (0 ppm).  At the time they were about 7000 ppm.  About two years after 0ppm was achieved – hurrah! Except it wasn’t – they’d just changed the way it was calculated.

    17. Barontorc says:

      We shouldn’t let these scare stories become the picture. If these figures (as they are shown) are accurate then to achieve almost 100% is nigh on unbelievable and apparently this is applauded in the USA, a country not attuned to free healthcare.
      One can hope that those who work at the sharp-end of NHS delivery – and the patients and their families who undoubtedly benefit, will return the goodwill and keep the NHS safe under an independent Scottish Government.
      By my book – pursuing continuous improvement is the only way forward – but it needs funding and it needs protection of that funding revenue by eliminating waste in all quarters and that’s where everyone’s focus should be. I would imagine Alex Neil will have the ball at his feet.

    18. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “Rangers are in Division 3 and have sold more season tickets to their Fans than they did in the previous two seasons. It’s very simple arithmetic and bears no correlation to the bogus NHS graph. Your pal Dougie Daniel was exhibiting similar desperation recently, but you seem to have exceeded him with this Stu.
      Stop being obsessional about a Club and group of people you hate. It does you no favours.”

      Or, perhaps you should stop being so hyper-defensive that your reaction to anything under the sun is “RANGERS DID NO WRONG!”. The size of the bars in that McCoist graph bear no geometric relation to the actual numbers in it, save that they do correctly identify which number is bigger. It has been grossly distorted to exaggerate the size of the 2012/13 figure.

      Here’s how the graph SHOULD look, even if we allow the “magnifying glass” effect:

      The middle bar shows where 38,014 would be if it was correctly represented to the scale defined by the other two figures. On the right we see the somewhat inflated Rangers version.

      And just for completeness here’s how the graph looks without the magnifying glass, with each bar at full relative size:

    19. Macart says:

      Thanks for the link Cath.
      Initiatives like this are where the NHS could work best in concert with the SG and do each other no end of good. Must admit to never having even heard of it and therein lies the problem. When our services and government bodies do actually produce the goods no one hears about it. This effectively leaves the door open for the opposition to make what they will of the same transparency and access. Both the NHS and the Scottish government could steal a march on those who would misuse this access presenting both the initiatives and their figures in the context in which it should be viewed.

    20. westie7 says:

      Why is the first graph using Dec12 when all other Ref points are Jan.
      What is the Jan13 figure?

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      We can only assume that they just couldn’t wait for the January figures in order to capitalise on what could be used as a stick to beat the SNP with. If they’d been better than December’s, a valuable opportunity to score a political point might have been lost.

    22. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:


      I tried to find another example but had no luck. The closest I got was an old graph by the lib dems from 2007.

      But I couldn’t get the original publication so instead there is just a link to a blog discussing it.

      Don’t be so defensive, this is my article not theRev’s.

      If you can find a better example then post it up and we will change it. 🙂

    23. TYRAN says:

      Right enough, Better Together social are now running with NHS scares. You can read them like a book. They even write “we would be breaking away from the UK NHS”, which Rev cleared up earlier on here.
      I also see their social has another HQ picture from the person featured on the front of the Scotland On Sunday. Where did that come from? You only need to wait on Sunday. The media will be running a story hand-in-hand with Better Together. 

    24. MJB says:

      Labour probably agree with this as well…

    25. cath says:

      “Must admit to never having even heard of it and therein lies the problem”
      Exactly. The irony is that our colleagues down south who’re involved in improvement do know, and are fairly jealous of the NHS up here. But you never, ever hear good news stories or positives, even at the best of times. And at the worst of times, like these, lying, corrupt eejits use even good things as scares.
      I spent a year in Canada and was struck by how positive people were out there, without a tabloid media and mentality, and this constant, divisive sniping at people just trying to do good jobs. There was always a sense in stories of “yes, this was a problem” but a recognition too that people were doing their best and public service staff in particular were given respect for working very hard in tough conditions. I came back from Canada so much more positive than when I arrived.
      What I see in the SNP is that Canadian positivity, can-do and trying to make things better, with a recognition that people are human and have failings, but are trying their best. What I get from Labour and the NO campaign is the very worst of that divisive, nasty, bash anyone if it wins you a political point mentality. It’s not pretty and it’s hardly going to win them over to many NHS staff, I can’t imagine.

    26. Alex Grant says:

      The truth of what is happening can only be communicated if the SG undertake to do so directly as the MSM won’t volunteer to do so. I’m sure even the BBC would have to give airtime to Alex Neill if he pushed to appear any and every night? The SG need to improve their communication through every means especially social media? This blog is doing a far better  job !

    27. Macart says:

      Probably another huge black mark against the media in these instances is their complete lack of objective professionalism. They must surely be aware of the complete lack of transparency and access of prior administrations yet have failed on every occasion to point out this discrepancy themselves. By any standard this is a reprehensible display of unprofessional journalistic practices by the media. By all means display graphs and figures, but if there are no prior comparisons, what are we actually looking at? As this post by Scott illustrates, you can basically make figures say anything which suits your agenda.
      A case of bad journalism in many cases and shoddy politics in all of them.

    28. Alex McI says:

      I do a lot of work in the hospitals, mostly refurbs. Was talking to a doctor at SGH maternity wsay said that the maternity there is designed for 2500 births a year, they done 6500 last year. The folk working at the frontline of our health service do a brilliant job with the tools they have. Of course they are short of resources for the task they carry out and should not be criticised. Hopefully the new hospital helps when it opens, just a shame that local tradesmen never got any more than the crumbs off the table.

    29. muttley79 says:

      Yes, it does look like the No campaign and the media in Scotland are targetting the NHS in Scotland.  It serves several purposes.  Firstly, the NHS in England has effectively been privatised, and the No campaign and the unionist media do not want policy divergences between Scotland and England to get too wide.  Hence the BBC Scotland’s ‘investigations’ of the NHS in Scotland, and Lamont’s, Davidson’s almost constant undermining of the service at FMQs.  In the event of a No vote the Scottish NHS will be under severe political pressure to follow the example of the NHS in England.  That the BBC in Scotland and the Scottish Labour Party are apparently willing to let this happen tells you all you need to know about them.  Secondly, as Nicola Sturgeon’s profile and popularity has risen, unrecognized and unforseen until recently by the political dinosaurs in Scottish Labour, they are desperately searching for ways to undermine her.  This also tells you about the negativity at the heart of unionism in Scotland.  Everything and everyone that is positive about Scotland has to be smeared, attacked and undermined.    

    30. famous15 says:

      The type of graph used by NO and GERs is called a Gee Whizz graph,much used in high pressure sales. You only use the top 10% and make a moderate difference look huge.My days at the old Strathclyde Business School in Bearden along with colleagues in the  Scotsman was not wasted!

    31. Yesitis says:

      “Everything and everyone that is positive about Scotland has to be smeared, attacked and undermined”.   
      Cheers, Muttley. You have condensed the No campaign into fifteen words.

    32. creag an tuirc says:

      “Everything and everyone that is positive about Scotland has to be smeared, attacked and undermined”. 
      I’m with Yesitis on this one, well said Muttley79

    33. Vronsky says:

      Just back from Tesco and my usual patrol around the newstand.  The anti-SNP, anti-independence front pages are pretty uniform.  I’m not sure if it’s correct to see this as poor journalism – the increasing consistency of the attacks makes it look a lot more like an intelligence operation.  In normal times the front page headline is supposed to tempt you to buy the paper, but this stuff seems intended to fulfil an entirely different purpose. 
      Most people read one or no newspaper, but every shopper sees all the front pages at the supermarket, blaring out like billboards, and all on the same message.  Rev, are you anywhere near a print copy?  Just a front page will do, and I’m sure you have a ready-made distribution network.

    34. Yesitis says:

      “Just back from Tesco and my usual patrol around the newstand.  The anti-SNP, anti-independence front pages are pretty uniform.  I’m not sure if it’s correct to see this as poor journalism – the increasing consistency of the attacks makes it look a lot more like an intelligence operation.  In normal times the front page headline is supposed to tempt you to buy the paper, but this stuff seems intended to fulfil an entirely different purpose”.
      The daily death by a thousand wounds. This was always going to happen; after a while they all merge into a choir of headlines: Blah Blah Blah SNP BAD (too wee) Blah Blah Blah ALEX SALMOND BAD (too small) Blah Blah Blah NICOLA STURGEON BAD (too stupid) Blah Blah Blah NHS BAD (too wee) Blah Blah Blah INDEPENDENCE BAD (too small)…
      Day in, day out.
      Manufactured to break the spirit.

    35. chicmac says:

      I too worked in a high tech industry which introduced something similar.  Not only was it a costly way of massaging results, it lead to meaningfully errant processes going unrecognised and addressed and to a misappropriation of their most  precious and limited resource, available engineering time.
      You do need to monitor, record and react, but if it is not in a way which is transparent and easy to grasp and above all sensibly allocates available resource’ then it can be next to useless or even counter productive.

    36. chicmac says:

        @ Vronsky
      Completely agree.  It is all designed to keep self esteem and confidence below a threshold where a majority for normal levels of self government might be voted for.

    37. scottish_skier says:

      Just back from Tesco and my usual patrol around the newstand.  The anti-SNP, anti-independence front pages are pretty uniform.
      Aye, but Tesco aren’t stupid. They know what sells these days, and that’s anything Scottish. There’s more saltires on display at my Local in Galashiels than Hampden when the footie’s on. Asda too. Jeez, Tesco have even upped the ante recently with new, additional, stick out at 90 deg to the shelves tags (so you can see them when looking down an aisle) with ‘I’m Scottish’ (not British – those are labelled differently) screaming out in bold letter with a we flag to boot.
      It’ll be why Tesco is a profitable business, whiles Scottish newspapers are a complete failure and going under.

    38. cath says:

      Yep, the media know exactly what they are doing and it is a million miles from “poor journalism”. It is state propaganda, day in day out.
      However, I’m not actually too bothered about it. The problem with propaganda is that it only really works when it’s subtle. When it’s obviously propaganda, people start to see through it. And once people have seen through it, the propagandists have essentially lost all control and are just being laughed at. Like the boy that cried wolf, one day they might say something true and it simply won’t be believed – I’ve already reached that level with the MSM in Scotland.

    39. cath says:

      And bear in mind, the SNP won a landslide in 2011 even with all the negative propaganda against them. I suspect the negativity, smears and constant attacks played a large part in that.

    40. scottish_skier says:

      I particularly like the Tesco ‘Scottish not British‘ range. These have a saltire sticker placed over the original packaging union flag to hide it. Quality.
      Tesco seem to know the mood of the nation. Newspapers clearly not!

    41. K Mackay says:

      I’ve had to wait more than 4 hours before in A&E (and only on a friday or saturday night when everyone’s queueing up to be hospitalised) but I’ve never grudged it for a second. A few hours wait is an incredibly small price to pay for FREE, extremely high quality treatment. If we end up stuck in the UK after 2014 and our NHS is gradually privatized, I and many others will stop going to A&E for the non-life threatening injuries to avoid the cost and a proportion of those injuries will become infected when it was completely preventable.
       This is one of the points I really try to get through to people, if we don’t get our Independence the Tories (or Labour) will destroy our NHS just the same as they’re doing in England. 

    42. Castle Rock says:

      Interesting list of over 50 Artists and Creatives who support independence over on National Collective:
      Good to see Jack Vettriano on the list.

    43. Macart says:

      Agreed Cath
      Whether state propaganda or merely concerted common interest the end result is the same. They do no favours for a supposedly ‘free press’ or journalism in general by heavily favouring one side of the story. Omitting relevant fact is every bit as vile as suppressing it. The public are no fools as proven by the 2011 result and the same media was in full swing then as now. I think the Rev is right however, one or two titles are beginning to show more positive signs hopefully this is a result of public pressure online.
      We’ll see as the year progresses.

    44. Craig P says:

      S_S – even my mother in law – as convinced a British unionist as you could want – says ‘I always buy Scottish in the supermarket, it’s important to support local business, and you know what you are getting’. The horse meat scandal is going to push even more people into that way of thinking. Cheap meat is a modern miracle but I am glad I can afford to buy proper meat instead of economy burgers.

    45. scottish_skier says:

      @Criag P

      S_S – even my mother in law – as convinced a British unionist as you could want – says ‘I always buy Scottish in the supermarket,

      Oh I agree. But seriously, my Tesco has gone nuts. They would not be doing this if they did not find that ‘Scottish’ sells much better than ‘British’ (in England, they label everything British).

      It may be people are buying Scottish because they want ‘super-local’ rather than just ‘semi-local’, but whatever the reason, my local Tesco is now screaming ‘I’m Scottish’ (not British, indirectly) and looks like Hampden or Murrayfeild on a busy night.

      It was not always thus and I’m not complaining!

    46. Jen says:

      Unionist seem to enjoy trying to trash the credibility and level of good will enjoyed by the NHS in Scotland.  It fits the right wing agenda. 
      It’s sad that they are going so low.   However, I get the feeling that this will back fire because it will not reflect the experience of the majority of people.   Propaganda is all they have. 

    47. G H Graham says:

      From a six sigma perspective, assuming the 4 hr time limit is an “upper control limit” then teh current performance is just short of a 5 Sigma level of performance, which by any manufacturing measure is simply oustanding.
      It is not considered perfect until at least 99.99966% of admission are seen within 4 hr slot but that would probably be impossibel because, unlike making widgets in a factory, there are many uncontrollable & unpredictable variables in the supply chain, most notably the patient.
      Patients change their minds, present contradictory symtoms, arrive drunk etc and that will never be solved.
      That the level is near 5 sigma is a stunning achievement.
      To compare, most manufacturing companies run an average 3 sigma and most of us are content with businesses at that level although it generates a busy customer complaints department but rarely life critical.
      Airlines run above six sigma, mostly in maintenance, not elsewhere like ticketing which is average. Why? Because of bloody customers who are a pain in the arse. Just like patients, they are beligerant, over expectant, contradictory & often dont show up and when they do, are also drunk.
      Expect more rubbish from the Unionists and I beleive they will focus on 2 things that make people take notice more than anything else; the NHS and taxes. I predict more tax scare stories where Scotland will elevate tax rates to 90% to pay for the 2 billion cost for Embassies, the 5 billion cost of armed forces and 100 billion for all the freebies.
      Of course I made these figures up after checking with Jackie Baillie’s clairvoyant.

    48. Alasdair Reid says:

      Great job, lies, damned lies and Bitter Together press releases

    49. scottish_skier says:

      Good old BBC.

      Problem it faces is it needs to attack the Tories while at the same time attacking the SNP. This obviously causes problems as Scots read both sets of stories.

      NHS ‘privatisation’ reform ‘could place people in danger’

      Same applies for Labour supporting papers in Scotland. They must attack the Tories but then that raises support for independence. Tough one huh.

    50. cath says:

      My heart bleeds.

    51. Albert Herring says:

      BBC “attack the Tories” Huh? They’ve virtually ignored the whole privatisation thing.

    52. Barontorc says:

      Don’t you just have to love it when these chancers have to resort to manipulation, lies and deceit.
      Heaven knows what the actual vote intentions are but from my seat – there’s a sure  groundswell for independence – cos – sick of the UK machine and Labour’s anti-social wimps.
      The Tories and their allies, now being trumped by UKIP are anathema to the Scottish psyche – when are they going to realise that. So, wake up and smell the flowers MSM – you’re going down the Swannee, with bells on!
      Who’s up for buying the Scotsman?

    53. Tonia Wight says:

      Well, I have to say Scotland is a whole lot better than England in my personal experience. Of 12 trips in 15 years to various English A&E’s for myself and various aquaintances I never waited less than 4 hours, expect when I was a tiny wee tot and went to a local hospital before they all closed. Now in Scotland, I’ve only one personal experience on the wee Isle of Bute where i was told ‘Oh we are really busy but we’ll be with you asap’; 10 minutes later I was having my hand stitched up. A more realistic example though – the dreaded Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh – having been the helper to get someone there, I’ve never waited more than 2 hours, normally about 30 minutes. Seriously chaps, we’ve got something to be proud of here!

    54. Morag says:

      I see someone above already identified this as the “gee-whiz” graph.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, right there on about page 10 of How to Lie with Statistics (great book by the way).
      The point about it seems to be that there is a sharp peak every year about this time, but that this year has been sharper than any in the previous few years.  Doubtless because of norovirus.  Then by having the graph stop at the height of the peak it can be made to look as if it is going up exponentially.  You could probably do the same thing in reverse by stopping at a nadir point, and make it look as if it is declining to nothing.
      That Rangers ticket sales graph is even worse, because even as a gee-whiz graph the bars are not to scale.  I literally laughed aloud when I read the actual numbers.  They’ve simply stayed the same.
      There’s another version of the graph to look out for, and that is the 3-D one.  In this version, instead of a vertical bar there is a 3-D drawing of an object – a person, or a barrel, or a bottle or something vaguely relevant to the subject matter.  The height of the object is still the height of the bar.  However, having introduced a 3-D element, the effect is to make the smaller object seem tiny in comparison.  I’ve seen the unionists play that trick too.

    55. Kenny Campbell says:

      I did laugh at the Ally McCoist example.

    56. Dunc says:

      Good to see somebody’s still getting some use of of what must be a very well-thumbed copy of Darrell Huff’s 1954 classic “How to Lie with Statistics” – although I don’t think he really intended it as an instruction manual, despite the title.

    57. Vronsky says:

      In ‘Facts from Figures’ (M J Moroney) there is a nice example of what can happen when you extrapolate a trend.  If the sharp year-on-year downward curve in deaths from measles after the introduction of vaccination is extended, you find yourself predicting the resurrection of the dead. 

    58. scottish_skier says:

      @Albert Herring

      I know what you mean, but Tory voters seem to hold the BBC in a similar low regard to independence supporters; just for slightly different reasons.

      The BBC like to get the boot into Tories, but it’s a fine line when the policy the BBC are attacking is going to be supported by Labour somewhere down the line.

      The problem is how to e.g. lambast NHS privatisation by the Tories whilst pretending Labour don’t support this, but at the same time attack the lack of privatisation by the Scottish Government and try to make sure Scots don’t hear too much about what’s going on in England. The last bit is of course impossible due to England dominating the MSM in the UK.

      In an ideal unionist world, Scots would have no idea what’s happening at Westminster. Just maybe be told the occasional bit of good news and/or funny story.

      All rather tricky to say the least. Quite amusing too.

    59. Morag says:

      Vronsky, another trick I’ve seen from the anti-vax nutters is to claim that the decline in measles deaths started before the vaccine was introduced, thus had nothing to do with the vaccine.
      They do this by cropping most of the 20th century from the graph.  During the 20th century measles deaths went up and down fairly randomly, perhaps cyclically.  It so happens that the vaccine was introduced when that fluctuation was already at one of its periodic nadirs.  If you crop everything before the last maximum, of course it looks as if the trend was already downwards.
      (I got How to Lie with Statistics as a public library cast-off in the 1970s.  Unfortunately I lent it to a student of mine some time in the 1980s and never got it back.)

    60. Vronsky says:

      “anti-vax nutters”
      Er – sometimes I think you need to be a little more nuanced, Morag. 🙂
      Vaccination is big business, and much of the test data are suspect as testing is carried out by Big Pharma themselves.  Here’s a useful site which I hope will help you to vaccinate yourself against using phrases like ‘anti-vax nutters’.  No doubt such people exist, but it’s not the whole story.

    61. Morag says:

      Oh my God.  9/11 twoofer and anti-vax with it. And uses lines like “Big Pharma”.

      I think I need a lie down.

    62. Vronsky says:

      “I think I need a lie down.”
      Just stick with the lying.

    63. farrochie says:

      We always use the unit of barrels when we produce oil, but if we spill any the media always converted it to gallons.

      It’s a good trick.

    64. Aidan says:

      Great work Rev,

      This is a huge mistake from labour as Scottish electorate are passionate and proud of NHS. (As are the staff themselves).
      They wont take kindly to being used for politcal point-scoring.

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