On Saturday 2 June 2018, 21 of our activists met the ScotNat march in Dumfries. We stood at the narrowest point of the march – at the Burns Statue – and we generously calculated that 3,000 slowly passed our point in a period of around 25 minutes.
How we Calculated the Numbers
We count the number passing a giving point in 1 minute. We do this several times. Then we take the average = 120; then we multiply that by the time the march took = 120 x 25 = 3,000. That is the standard way to estimate the numbers on any march!
As can be seen from the pictures on this page, our vantage point was perfect.
Standing at the narrowest part of the march, witnessing the slow pace, the regular holdups, and the wide spaces in the often very loose crowd, made it easy for us to calculate these numbers.
The tightest-packed area was at the front, with the march gradually become looser as time passed. Therefore, our average estimated in the first few minutes, but calculated as consistent over the entire 25 minutes, will be a very generous estimate.
Immediately after the march, we spoke to a Police Liaison Officer. He told us the Police estimate was 3,500. We concurred. While it was a little higher than our estimation of 3,000 – it was in our ballpark.
Therefore, it became surprising, disappointing and worrying, that the Dumfries and Galloway Police stated that there were "10,000" on the march. All evidence clearly disproves that number – which is wildly out – including their own video evidence.
For example, according to the 'Dumfries Galloway Police Division' Facebook page and its 'Weekly Snapshot' video published on the 6 June, Divisional Commander Gary Ritchie said, "We estimated the number of people taking part at around 10,000, which is actually far more than was initially anticipated."
Even the video of the procession which they use to illustrate the march indicates the crowd was slow moving, and loose, and taking up only half the road, and could not have physically reached such a figure of 10,000 in a period of a 25 minute slow shuffle!
(Furthermore, the population of Dumfries is 31,000. Are they really saying that a number equivalent to one third of the entire population of the town slowly ambled down the High Street in 25 minutes? And where did they all park? There were plenty of spaces around town. But an influx equivalent to one third the entire town would have seized it up for hours!)
We are very concerned that the Police came up with this figure after having told us it was 3,500; a figure which approximately tallied with our own estimation.
However, this follows an unfortunate pattern which was set earlier this year in Glasgow on 5 May.
On that day, our activists met the Nationalist march when it came down Union Street.
Again, we were well placed to estimate numbers, which were clearly in the 8-10,000 range, max. We wrote about the numbers here.
However, the Police said it was 35,000!
Again, over-estimating by at least 3 times!
It is a new tendency. They didn't used to do this. They used to be accurate.
Our organisation covered both those marches on the spot, and our estimations tallied almost exactly with those of the Police.
We'll get into why they might have started doing this in a minute, but firstly, let's ask...
Why is Over-estimation a Problem?
The answer is because there are no innocent consequences from this mistake.
It is not as if people are marching for something we can all agree on!
It is not as if people are marching for something which is harmless!