Scottish farm business income: annual estimates: Methodology

Methodology for Scottish farm business income estimate publications

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Accuracy and Reliability

This section discusses how accurately and reliably these statistics portray reality.

Data quality

The quality of information collected from each farm is very high as data are based on fully reconciled farm accounts. Data for each farm is also validated against a comprehensive set of quality assurance checks.

The potential for processing errors is regarded as low risk. This is due to much of the collection being based on reconciled accounts, the extensive use of cross-checking validation routines and that the vast majority of farms have previous records in the survey which are used to identify inaccuracies in returns.

Results are examined alongside previous outputs and related evidence from alternative sources in order to ensure that the data and methods being used are reliable.

Potential outlying results that may have an impact on the analysis are also identified. Such outliers, when identified, may be excluded from specific analysis to ensure that the results are representative of the population being described.

Although the quality of information for each farm business in the survey is considered to be high, relatively low sample sizes do mean that the results are subject to a degree of uncertainty in terms of representing overall national averages by farm type. Weighting is applied to account for representation as best as possible, more information is available in Farm Business Income (FBI) methodology

In some cases, accounts may not be finalised until after the deadline for submission of data. In such cases estimated records are updated and the published figures are revised in the following year. In this sense, the first release of data for a particular year may be regarded as provisional.

Sampling error and bias

A total of 395 farms were in the 2022-23 sample. This accounts for 4% of the total relevant agricultural holdings in Scotland. As the survey does not cover the entire population, the FBI estimates are susceptible to sampling error.

As the data collected through the FBS is of a highly sensitive nature, the refusal rate of farms approached to participate is high. Non-responders (farms refusing to participate) may have different characteristics to responders (farms willing to cooperate), which could lead to biased results. Currently there has been no assessment of non-response bias in the FBS for Scotland.

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