Swinney reported to statistics watchdog over Covid comparison

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been accused of a misleading use of Covid-19 statistics (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been accused of a misleading use of Covid-19 statistics (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been reported to the statistics authority after he was accused of misrepresenting the impact of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland.

Mr Swinney, who is the Scottish Government’s Covid Recovery Secretary, suggested Covid rates in Scotland were lower than in England because of extra measures introduced north of the border.

Speaking on the BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday, he suggested ONS figures showing one in 40 Scots were infected compared to one in 25 in England were “the strongest evidence that the measures taken in Scotland are protecting the population from Covid”.

But the figures cited by Mr Swinney were from before the Scottish Government imposed additional restrictions.

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

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie has now reported the SNP minister to the UK Statistics Authority, writing she was “deeply concerned” to hear the statistics allegedly being misrepresented.

In the letter to the watchdog’s chairman Sir David Norgrove, Ms Baillie wrote: “The correct use of statistics and data is vital to encourage public confidence, rather than the deliberate spin deployed by the Deputy First Minister.”

Speaking about her decision to report Mr Swinney, Ms Baillie added: “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.

“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.”

Jackie Baillie has reported John Swinney to the UK Statistics Authority (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)
Jackie Baillie has reported John Swinney to the UK Statistics Authority (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)

During a virtual Holyrood session on Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended her deputy, arguing he had used the most up-to-date data available at the time.

She added: “I cited in my statement today data that as I understand it that has been published while I’ve been speaking, that is a week more up to date – there will always be a lag in it – that I think will still show that one in 20, though very, very high, is still lower certainly than in England.

“But these things are not a competition. We just all have to take the decisions and judgments that we think are best to try to navigate the safest possible course through that.”

In its more recent infection survey, for the week ending Friday December 31, the ONS estimated around one in 20 people in Scotland had the virus, compared to around one in 15 in England, one in 20 in Wales, and one in 25 in Northern Ireland.

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