Complaint lodged

Rennie accuses Sturgeon of ‘twisting’ Covid data

Willie Rennie
Willie Rennie has sent a letter to the UK Statistics Authority (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie has written to the UK Statistics Authority claiming the First Minister may have “seriously twisted” data on Covid infection levels in Scotland and England.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday claimed in parliament that “the Office for National Statistics figures this week show that infection levels in England are over 20% higher than those in Scotland”.

Mr Rennie said ONS figures state that 1 in 20 people were infected in both Scotland and England in the week ending 15 January. They also state that the estimated average percentage of the population that had COVID-19 in Scotland was 4.49% compared to 5.47% south of the border.

In a letter to Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Mr Rennie says: “I write to report to you the use of statistics by the First Minister at the Scottish Parliament this week and to seek your guidance on their validity on this occasion and in future.

“At yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions, the First Minister stated: “The Office for National Statistics figures this week show that infection levels in England are over 20 per cent higher than those in Scotland”.

“However, ONS figures state that 1 in 20 people were infected in both Scotland and England in the week ending 15 January. They also state that the estimated average percentage of the population that had COVID-19 in Scotland was 4.49% compared to 5.47% – a difference of less than 1%.

“The public have a right to always expect the Scottish Government’s interpretation of data to be robust. This is even more important when that data is being used to justify and substantiate restrictions on their liberty and freedoms under the use of emergency powers.

“Parliament has granted powers to ministers that would not be countenanced in any other circumstances so scrutiny of how they are used is essential.

“Public confidence in these statistics must not be put at risk. There must be no bias, spin or manipulation. However, I am concerned that these statistics may have been seriously twisted

“I would be grateful if you could advise on whether the ONS statistics should have been portrayed in this way and whether the First Minister should continue to report statistics in this manner.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister was entirely correct. The most recent ONS Covid-19 infection data showed that the level of infection in England is proportionately over 20% higher than in Scotland – the percentage increase is 21.8% meaning that if the rate in Scotland had matched that in England there would have been more than 50,000 additional infections in Scotland.”



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