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Don't trust the Daily Express's weather reports

A headline with two unnecessary words, perhaps.

Predicting the weather is hard even if you're a qualified meteoroligist. Just ask Michael Fish. But it's especially tricky if your key skill is sensationalistic headlines, rather than complex geophysical analysis. Which – perhaps – is why the Daily Express's track record when it comes to weather reports is somewhat subpar.

Scott Bryan has taken a look at the last year's worth of weather-related headlines from the nation's most popular combined Diana fanzine and publisher of serialised fiction, and found that what they lack in accuracy, they make up for in hysteria:

According to my own research, since September 2011:

Stories about the WEATHER [have] appeared on the front page Daily Express 111 times.

It has been the MAIN NEWS STORY OF THE DAY 52 times.

Also:

It has predicted hurricanes 3 times in the last year. It also claims that a hurricane hit Britain on the 4th January.

There has been 12 instances in the last year where it has predicted or has claimed weather ‘chaos’.

Bryan also went through the whole year's worth of weather related headlines and matched them to the Met Office reports for the month in question. The full list is a bit of a data overload, but the Media Blog has helpfully gone through and picked out the most egregious errors (click through for more):

For example take The Express's 20th October headline: "BIG FREEZE WILL KILL THOUSANDS". That ushered in the second warmest November in over 100 years according to the Met Office.

Or how about on 5th December when The Express told us: "WHY A WHITE CHRISTMAS IS A SURE BET". It followed this on the 17th December by declaring: "IT'S A WHITE CHRISTMAS". Sadly neither the bookies nor the snow Gods were listening eight days later as anybody backing The Express's 'sure thing' wasted their money.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.