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Nicola Sturgeon reported to statistics watchdog over claims she ‘twisted’ Covid-19 data

Nicola Sturgeon has been referred to the UK's statistics watchdog over her presentation of Covid-19 data.

Nicola Sturgeon has been reported to the UK Statistics Agency amid claims of “seriously twisting” coronavirus statistics.

Willie Rennie, MSP for North East Fife, reported the first minister over concerns the coronavirus statistics she quoted during FMQs on the virus rates in Scotland and England “may have been seriously twisted”.

Speaking in Holyrood on Thursday, the first minister said: “The Office for National Statistics figures this week show that infection levels in England are over 20% higher than those in Scotland.”

However Mr Rennie says the ONS figures the Scottish Liberal Democrats have seen say one in 20 people were infected in both Scotland and England in the week ending January 15.

He says the estimated average percentage of the population that had Covid-19 in Scotland was 4.49%, compared to 5.47% in England – a difference of less than 1%.

‘No bias, spin or manipulation’

Mr Rennie has now written to Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, to ask whether or not the first minister should continue to quote the statistics in this way.

He said: “The public have a right to always expect the Scottish Government’s interpretation of data to be robust.

“This is even more important when that data is being used to justify and substantiate restrictions on their liberty and freedoms under the use of emergency powers.

“Parliament has granted powers to ministers that would not be countenanced in any other circumstances so scrutiny of how they are used is essential.

Willie Rennie, MSP for North East Fife

“Public confidence in these statistics must not be put at risk.

“There must be no bias, spin or manipulation.

“However, I am concerned that these statistics may have been seriously twisted.”

Previously Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney had suggested coronavirus rates in Scotland were lower because of the extra measures introduced north of the border.

At the beginning of the year he said ONS figures showed one in 40 people in Scotland were infected compared to one in 25 in England, despite these figures coming from before the additional measures were introduced by the Scottish Government.

Nicola Sturgeon’s office has been approached for a comment.

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