Mourners of Kodjo Yenga, 16, walk through Notting Hill in 2007. Photo: Getty.
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169 London teenagers killed in a decade: can prosperity prevent murder?

The link isn't exhaustive, but more deaths have occurred in more deprived areas. 

“A teenager has been stabbed to death in east London,” the BBC reported yesterday. The murder was the 169th of a London teenager in the past decade.

It’s easy to glide over such simple statistics. But Citizens Report, a site which has spent years tracking the data, has a picture and name of almost every one. As with prisoners, the vast majority were male – 88 per cent. But 20 – or two a year – were women. A fifth of all those murdered were under 16.

A dozen were beaten to death. 32 were shot. Most – 125 – were stabbed. But where were they killed? And does the poverty of an area make murder more likely?

At first glance, the murders are clustered around east-central…

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…and south-central London.

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And the most deadly boroughs are in those areas: Hackney and Newham north of the river and Southwark and Lambeth to the south. At least ten teenagers have died in two other boroughs: Enfield far to the north, and Croydon well to the south. Those may sound vaguely familiar as areas at the lower end of the housing market, but are they London’s most deprived? Here are the murders plotted on a detailed ward-by-ward map of London, colour-coded by deprivation.

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Is there a relationship between deprivation and deaths? There appears to be some link: just over a third of the variation in death rates is explained by deprivation.

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Now causation doesn’t mean causality. Any sententious statistician will tell you as much. In this case, they would mean that deprivation isn't necessarily the cause of murders – a different, unidentified cause could be.

No teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived.

And as this site entertainingly shows, many completely unrelated things can be shown to correlate (for a decade deaths by asphyxiation have risen in line with US spending on science & tech). But no teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived. No more than four teenagers have been killed in any of those ten.

In contrast, the two most deprived boroughs – Newham and Hackney – are two of the four most deadly, and at least five people have been murdered in each of the ten most deprived.

There is a link, but it is only a starting point for any analysis. The team at Citizens Report went on to test the relationship between ward-level deprivation and deaths, and were surprised at how little of one existed. But they are using the location of deaths as the only barometer of where a murder “took place”.

There is a link between deprivation and these deaths, but it is only a starting point for any analysis.

The wards are so small – rarely encompassing more than a few streets – that murders in one ward could plausibly have really been the end of a conflict that began in another.

A borough-level analysis irons these differences out. This conclusion is not exhaustive but it is inescapable: the best way to prevent another decade of death is to improve the boroughs these children grew up in.

Explore the dormant Citizens Report for wit and iconoclasm. (“Many say a robust anti-gang approach through policing is essential - you have to fight fire with fire. Most people who deal with fires say the best thing to put out a fire is water.”)

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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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.