On the 5th October 2019, I wrote to the BBC to complain about the above and their reply after some delay, yesterday, is a masterpiece in evasion and denial. First, here’s the complaint I sent:
The key points are that their claim does not appear anywhere in the report and that the report repeatedly warns against comparisons between different countries because the data is based on differing methods of classification. Here is their response to these fatal flaws, in reverse order:
Our online report stated that average numbers across a range of species had fallen in Scotland by 24% since 1994. We reported the comparable figure for the UK as a whole, 13%. Although the UK figures are from an earlier baseline, it should be noted that the figures for the most recent decade are proportionately similar – 6% in the UK, 12% in Scotland; and in both cases the State of Nature report says that there was no significant difference in the rate of change between the present 10-year period and the longer baselined periods in either the UK or Scotland.
The report uses these absolute percentage figures, giving them equal prominence in the relevant sections of the document, and we believe it is reasonable to report them when they invite such a comparison. We consulted widely on this story with those directly involved in working in Scotland to protect wildlife and entered caveats where it was thought appropriate – for example, pointing out that the UK-wide figure drew on data from more species. We also quoted the lead author of the report in Scotland making a general point about different datasets, species and timelines.
Accordingly, when you say that the headline words in quotes do not appear anywhere in the report, they are what we have reason to conclude is the overall message coming out of the study, as I have explained above. While for these reasons we do not feel the headline was inaccurate, it would have been better attributed as the overall message taken from the report and we have amended the headline accordingly.
As of 06:14 on the 1st November 2019, the headline remained the same.