Sometimes I think, even with my modest understanding of statistics, responding to Scottish journalists’ efforts is like shooting fish in a barrel.

In the Scotsman yesterday we see the confident assertion that Scotland has the highest suicide rate in the UK. First, Northern Ireland has a notably higher rate than Scotland. It’s called ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’ Second, Scotland did have a higher suicide rate than England, in 2018, but the more important facts are that there is a notable downward trend here over a more meaningful period of time and the one-year change can be explained, whereas as the rate of change is static in England.

Here are the Scottish figures:

The one-year increase in 2018 is not, as any O-Grade, Standard Grade or National 4 mathematics pupil will tell you, evidence of a trend. It is probably related to the drugs epidemic triggered by Thatcherite economic policies in the 1980s. Much of the 2018 increase may well be attributable to the spike in drug-related deaths among older users, the Trainspotting Generation, who are now reaching the end of their shortened life expectancies together. This may go on for a year or two until this tragic group have all expired.

Also, the trend is downward. Using proper statistical methods to detect a trend, even if you include the 2018 spike in a set for 2015-2018, the average is 14.75 compared with 16.75 for the previous 4 years from 2011 to 2014.

Here are the data for Northern Ireland:

There is, here, clear evidence of an upward trend.

Here are the data for England:

The rate is clearly lower than in Scotland but is static and not improving.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/suicidesintheunitedkingdomreferencetables