The Ginger Population of Scotland

The Ginger Population Of Scotland

I normally consider the BBC to be a bastion of truth in the UK. I assume that their news stories are neutral, and report on the facts, not the sensation. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that I regularly see the corporation accused of both left and right bias. That’s a good sign. You would imagine, then, that their answer to the question “What percentage of the world’s redhead population lives in Scotland?” would be accurate, and useful for those wanting to know the ginger population of Scotland. However, on at least one occasion, the answer that they published to this no doubt commonly asked question was wrong…


Now, I can imagine that you are somewhat curious as to why the question has arisen. It was a statistic quoted on the BBC website a few weeks ago as part of the coverage of Scotland’s first Ginger Pride march. Yes, such a thing does exist. It was claimed in the report that nearly one in five of the world’s redheads live in Scotland. This sounded wrong to me, so I did some basic research and some basic maths. The percentage of the world population that is ginger is quoted as several different numbers online, but in the low percents. If we assume that the number is at the lower end of this, and 1%, and that the global population is around 7 billion, then this gives us 70 million redheads. If one fifth of these live in Scotland, then that’s about 14 million. However, the 2011 census returned a population for Scotland of 5.3 million. This would mean that 264% of the population of Scotland would need to have red hair to make the BBC story accurate.


The ginger population of Scotland..?

One of the great things about the BBC is its ability to hold itself to account. For most media channels, you met get an email of acknowledgement or perhaps a tiny comment somewhere showing the mistake. I contacted the team at BBC Radio 4’s More or Less – an excellent programme – about my calculations, and not only did they investigate, but they ran a story about it. Sadly, I was travelling so had to turn down their offer of a trip to a studio to record for the programme, but you might just hear a familiar voice if you listen here, from 13 min 46 sec onwards. You will also find out the actual ginger population of Scotland, and how the incorrect fact made it to the news website. My faith in the BBC – which was never that shaken – has been restored. Good news for those wanting to better understand the ginger population of Scotland.