Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Willie Rennie after she was cleared by the UK Statistics Authority – having been reported by the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP over her use of Covid data.
Last week, the First Minister cited ONS figures showing that infection levels in England were “over 20% higher than those in Scotland”.
However, Rennie wrote to UK Statistics Authority chair Sir David Norgrove over her use of the statistic.
The former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader explained that he was concerned that the statistic may have been “seriously twisted”.
Following the claims, a Scottish Government spokesperson insisted that the figures used by the First Minister were accurate, adding that Rennie had made a mistake.
A response has now been provided by Sir David regarding the claims.
He stated that Sturgeon accurately quoted the figure from the ONS, adding that the data suggests that the rate of infection is lower than in England.
On Tuesday during her Covid statement, the First Minister addressed the remarks by Rennie and the response from the UK Statistics Authority.
“I want to address directly a claim made in recent weeks by some opposition members to the effect that the protective measures here introduced in response to Omicron were unnecessary and that data shows that Scotland’s more cautious approach achieved no more than England’s less protective approach,” she said.
“In response, I told Parliament last week that, and I quote, ‘the ONS figures this week show that infection levels in England are over 20% higher than those in Scotland’.
“Willie Rennie issued a furious press release on the back of this saying that I had ‘twisted the data’. He also reported me to the impartial chair of the UK Statistics Authority.
“I’m pleased to say that he has now written back to Mr Rennie, oddly, as far as I’m aware, Mr Rennie has not press released the reply.”
Sturgeon continued: “Sir David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, says in his reply that I, again quoting, ‘correctly stated that the figure for England was more than 20% higher than the figure for Scotland’.
“But he goes further than that, while acknowledging there are other equally accurate ways to cite the statistics, he concludes as follows, ‘the data does suggest that the rate of infection is lower in Scotland than in England.”
The First Minister warned MSPs against attempting to “undermine confidence” in decisions taken by the Scottish Government.
“To me, what matters is that Scotland is doing better now than we were doing before Christmas and better now than we might have been doing had we not taken action to stem transmission,” she said.
“That is what is important. How we are faring relative to England, or anywhere else, is not in my view the key comparison.
“But, given that others have sought to draw that comparison inaccurately in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Scottish Government’s decisions, I hope all members will now accept the conclusion of the chair of UK Statistics Authority that the data I cited was indeed accurate.”
Responding to the remarks by the First Minister, Rennie Tweeted: “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.”