The UK’s statistics watchdog has ruled that Humza Yousaf “inaccurately presented” coronavirus data relating to children.
Last week, the health secretary made a claim in the Scottish Parliament suggesting that ten young children had been hospitalised because of Covid-19.
However, the UK Statistics Authority has now indicated that the figure used by Yousaf was not correct.
In a letter, Ed Humpherson, the director general for regulation, said that “the figure used was not available publicly at the time the statement was made, and it was inaccurately presented.”
He added: “Whilst we understand that on this occasion, it was a genuine mistake, which was quickly corrected, I would like to reiterate the importance of ensuring ministers are appropriately briefed and any figures referred to publicly must be made available.”
The body also said that Humpherson had written to the Scottish Government’s chief statistician to “reiterate our expectation that when statistics are used publicly to inform parliaments or the media they should be published in an accessible form with appropriate explanation”.
Scottish Conservatives shadow health secretary Annie Wells has now urged Yousaf to apologise for the mistake.
“This is a humiliating slap-down for Humza Yousaf,” said Wells.
“Top statisticians have confirmed his child Covid claims, which left thousands of parents worried for their kids’ safety, were inaccurate.
“It’s a disgrace that the SNP Government wouldn’t just come clean and admit Humza Yousaf got this wrong. Instead, they danced around questions about his dangerous scaremongering.
“The health secretary alarmed parents but once again, just like when he made false accusations of sectarian singing, he didn’t hold his hands up and admit the mistake.
“For once, Humza Yousaf should drop the arrogance, show some humility and finally apologise for getting this so badly wrong.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The health secretary has already expressed his regret for any alarm his remarks may have caused – and the Statistics Authority has acknowledged this was ‘a genuine mistake’ made shortly after the health secretary had taken on his new role.
“The Scottish Government responded swiftly and published the figures quoted with clear definitions and notes to help understand the data.
“The health secretary was answering a question about whether a parent in level two should take their child to a soft play in level one and was simply highlighting the risks of people breaching Covid restrictions.
“The age group currently showing the second highest number of confirmed Covid cases is children under 14 – and we need to be extremely careful to avoid giving the impression that there is no risk to children from COVID.”