IT IS a frequently heard complaint in the referendum debate:
people say they do not have enough information to make up their minds. Are they kidding? We are inundated with information. We are drowning in insights into what might or might not happen. There are books - books! - on the subject.
Scotland's Future: The Economics Of Constitutional Change, edited by former Scottish Government chief economic adviser Dr Andrew Goudie, presents authoritative and impartial analysis by some of the country's most eminent economists and civil servants.
Another academic tome, Scotland's Choices: The Referendum And What Happens After, by Iain McLean, Jim Gallagher and Guy Lodge, looks at a broader range of issues, including an independent Scotland's membership of the European Union and Nato. My colleague Iain Macwhirter's Road To Referendum, written to coincide with the STV series, gives a historical perspective to the rise of the SNP.
Today we will get our hands on the UK Government's latest Scotland Analysis paper, on the defence implications of independence. It is the sixth in a series of Whitehall reports making the case for Scotland remaining part of the UK. Between them, they run to nearly 600 pages and there is at least as much still to come.
On the other side of the debate, the Scottish Government's referendum website lists 22 publications detailing its plans for independence, in addition to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's blog and further background reading. All this before the White Paper, the "prospectus" for independence, is published next month.
The Royal Society Of Edinburgh is staging a series of seminars entitled Enlightening The Constitutional Debate that, so far, has produced academic reports on citizenship, international relations, culture and more besides. Constitutional lawyers share their thoughts on the Scottish Constitutional Futures website, while opinion polls are dissected on Professor John Curtice's What Scotland Thinks site.
The seam of information is rich enough to support a cottage industry of newspaper commentators. Online it is mined by bloggers bright and barking. Too little information is not the problem. The problem is there is so much.
That is why a major statistical exercise launched in Edinburgh last week should be welcomed. The UK Statistics Authority, the national facts and figures watchdog, announced plans for a referendum compendium (a referendium?) of statistics allowing reliable comparisons of all aspects of life in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will be produced by the Office For National Statistics and involve civil servants working for the UK and Scottish Governments.
Existing data on everything from economic performance to deprivation will be re-presented on a like-for-like basis. The aim is to make it easier for all of us to understand what the rival campaigns actually mean when they bandy apparently contradictory statistics about, say, the value of oil left in the North Sea or Scotland's share of public spending.
In short, it should act as a guard against the misleading use of statistics by either side. With information overload in prospect as the vote draws closer, that has to be a good thing.
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