Swinney referred to statistics watchdog after making Covid rules case

The deputy first minister used figures justifying new restrictions from before the measures were introduced.

Swinney referred to statistics watchdog after making Covid rules case YouTube
Labour's Jackie Baillie has written to the UK Statistics Authority over Swinney's use of the figures.

John Swinney has been reported to the UK Statistics Authority after suggesting new restrictions had been effective – by making his case using figures from before they were introduced.

The deputy first minister appeared on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday.

He claimed that measures introduced in Scotland over the festive period had result in only one in 40 Scots contracting coronavirus, compared to the one in 25 in England.

However, the data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on December 31, referred to the week ending December 23.

The new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland were not introduced until December 26.

In the latest figures published by the ONS, covering the week ending December 31, one in 20 Scots have contracted Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie has now written to the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, over the comments made by Swinney.

In a letter, Baillie accused Swinney of “deliberate spin”, whilst also raising concerns as to why a detailed breakdown of patients in hospital with Covid-19, as opposed to those admitted because of it, has not been made available.

Advertisement

A Scottish Government spokesperson however said Baillie’s claims are “totally unfounded”.

“The correct use of statistics and data is vital to encourage public confidence, rather than the deliberate spin deployed by the deputy first minister,” said Baillie.

“Furthermore, I am alarmed by the Scottish Government’s apparent reluctance to provide a detailed breakdown of those patients who are in hospital with Covid-19, as compared to those who have been admitted because of Covid-19, and the corresponding figures for ICU admissions.

“The data is available in England and I understand has been collected by Public Health Scotland. Despite repeated promises of publication, this data has yet to be shared.

The public rightly expect and demand transparency. It is imperative that the public have faith in the accuracy and truthfulness of statistics that are cited by Government ministers.

“As such, I would be grateful if you could investigate this matter and take appropriate action.

Baillie insisted that the people of Scotland must get “all the facts that they deserve”.

Advertisement

“Public trust in the actions of the Scottish Government is of paramount importance, but it risks being eroded due to selective and erroneous use of statistics by senior figures such as Mr Swinney,” she said.

“The Scottish Government has a duty to present the people of Scotland with the facts as they are, not as the government would wish them to be. 

“Scottish Labour will continue to hold this government to account to ensure that the people of Scotland get all the facts that they deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These claims are totally unfounded.

“Prior to Boxing Day there were already substantial differences in Covid protections between Scotland and England – most importantly on wearing face coverings.

“The deputy first minister made the entirely valid point that the different approach we are taking in Scotland is helping protect the population from the virus, using the latest available ONS data published at the time.

“This point is backed up by the latest ONS data published yesterday, which estimates around one in 15 people in England tested positive for Covid in the week ending December 31, compared to one in 20 in Scotland.

“As the First Minister made clear yesterday, it is entirely right that Public Health Scotland (PHS) is given time to ensure the data used to differentiate those in hospital because of Covid from those who are in hospital with Covid is robust, and latest analysis from that work will be available in the PHS COVID Weekly Report tomorrow.”

More on