Data bungle

Rennie urged to apologise after stats claim backfires

Willie Rennie in Holyrood
Willie Rennie: Covid claim

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said an independent authority had backed her recent statement comparing Covid rates north and south of the border.

Former LibDem leader Willie Rennie wrote to Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, to complain that Ms Sturgeon had twisted the data.

But the First Minister today asked Mr Rennie to apologise to people in Scotland for providing an unnecessary distraction after Sir David “rubbished his claims”.

She said Sir David had written to the North East Fife MSP and confirmed that the First Minister ‘correctly stated’ Scotland’s infection rate was more than 20% lower than in England.

In his letter he said: “The data does suggest that the rate of infection is lower in Scotland than in England.” He added that ‘it would also be correct to say that the prevalence of COVID-19 was around one percentage point higher in England than in Scotland.”

SNP MSP Siobhian Brown said: “Willie Rennie’s letter to the Office of National Statistics has backfired spectacularly.
“The impartial UK Chief Statistician has settled the question of whether Scotland has seen higher or lower levels of infection than England.
“He definitively states ‘the data does suggest that the rate of infection is lower in Scotland than in England.’

“We should now hear no more of the nonsense claim from the opposition that citing statistics showing Scotland performing better than other parts of the UK is somehow wrong.

“Willie Rennie has completely embarrassed himself and should apologise to the people of Scotland for providing an unnecessary distraction during a time when people were making sacrifices to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.”

Mr Rennie later responded on Twitter, saying: “Nicola responds to the complaint about her selective use of statistics by selectively quoting the letter from the statistics authority! The authority advised both percent and percentage points should be quoted but 1% doesn’t sound as impressive as 20% so she chose not to.”

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