Proper statistics are elementary to economic policy, dear Watson | Scotland

‘It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data,” Sherlock Holmes rebuked Dr Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia.

Scottish Labour’s economy spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, gave economist Richard Murphy a similar reprimand when he appeared before Holyrood’s economy, jobs and fair work committee last week, to discuss the veracity of Scotland’s economic data.

Murphy, you’ll remember, once described the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland report (Gers) as “crap” and “rigged by Westminster”. He also claimed £25bn is lost to the UK economy through legal tax avoidance, against an HMRC estimate of £5bn.

To be fair, Murphy has also offered tax-avoidance tips, once advising well-heeled parents to set up personal service companies for nannies, thus avoiding income tax and national insurance, so maybe he…

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