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Sturgeon 'misleading' public

Officials challenge FM’s claims over Covid cases

Nicola Sturgeon: accused of using flawed data

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that the prevalence of the Covid virus was five times higher in England than it was in Scotland have been called into question by UK officials.

Ms Sturgeon has made the claim on at least seven occasions during her daily briefings or in the Holyrood parliament.

In a letter to Roger Halliday, the chief statistician & joint head of the Covid modelling and analysis team for the Scottish Government, Ed Humpherson, the director general for regulation, said: “When unpublished figures are quoted in the public domain, we expect that this information is shared with the media and the public in a way that promotes transparency and clarity.

“There are lessons to be learnt in this case, with different data sources being quoted to the media and to us. We expect that any figures used are appropriately sourced, explained and available in the public domain. 

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“Furthermore, it is important to recognise that a comparison of COVID-19 prevalence rates is not straightforward. If it is to be undertaken, the results and the uncertainties should be communicated transparently. We do not think that the sources above allow for a quantified and uncaveated comparison of the kind that was made.”

Following a query from Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs, the UK statistics regulator has also queried what it calls the Scottish Government’s use of “uncaveated” statistics.

In a response to Mr Briggs, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, wrote: “The sources you were provided with do not allow for a meaningful comparison to be made…. We do not think that these sources allow for a quantified and uncaveated comparison of the kind being made here.”

Mr Briggs said: “This verdict could not be more clear – the First Minister repeatedly gave a misleading picture of the state of the ‎outbreak across the UK.

“This flawed analysis was the basis of major policy decisions and had serious repercussions for our tourism industry and our society.

“The First Minister’s use of these dodgy statistics even led to repeated warnings that the border could be closed which, in turn, triggered ugly protests that have damaged Scotland’s reputation as a welcoming country.

“It is hard not to conclude that the First Minister pushed this unreliable comparison, with no context, for her own political purposes.

“The First Minister must apologise for misleading the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish public.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “The SNP and Tories are obsessed with comparing England and Scotland only because both countries have done so badly at dealing with COVID versus any other international benchmark.

“In a time of national crisis, the people of Scotland deserve much more from their government than political point scoring. It is time for the SNP Government to end this pathetic politicking and be forthright with the people of Scotland.

“That the First Minister is happy to spout unverified statistics for political gain but not to answer questions raised by journalists concerning the devastation of our care homes is truly shocking.

“Testing in Scotland is still woeful and over half of all businesses are likely to start laying off workers. Meeting this challenge will require maturity and truthfulness, not political game-playing.”

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