Covid Scotland: Infection rate was lower in Scotland than England, says statistics body over claims Nicola Sturgeon 'twisted' data

The Covid-19 infection rate was lower in Scotland than England in the second week of January, the UK Statistics Authority has said, following claims Nicola Sturgeon “twisted” data from this period.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie reported Ms Sturgeon to the statistics watchdog after she quoted figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Infection rates in England were “over 20 per cent higher than those in Scotland”, Ms Sturgeon said.

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The ONS figures showed 5.47 per cent of people in England were estimated to be infected, compared to 4.49 per cent in Scotland.

A woman uses a swab to take a sample from her mouth at a NHS Test and Trace Covid-19 testing unit at the Civic Centre in Uxbridge, Hillingdon, west London on May 25, 2021. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

In a letter to UK Statistics Authority chairman Sir David Norgrove, Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said he was “concerned that these statistics may have been seriously twisted”.

He said: “Public confidence in these statistics must not be put at risk. There must be no bias, spin or manipulation.”

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Responding to Mr Rennie, Mr Norgrove said the First Minister had correctly stated the figure in Scotland was more than 20 per cent lower than that in England.

He wrote: “The First Minister was comparing these two proportions and correctly stated that the figure for England was more than 20 per cent higher than the figure for Scotland.

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"It would also be correct to say that the prevalence of Covid-19 was around one percentage point higher in England than in Scotland.

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"Quantitative comparisons between the two estimates should take account of the precision with which they are available, but the data does suggest that the rate of infection is lower in Scotland than in England.”

Ms Sturgeon quoted the reply in her Covid-19 update to MSPs on Tuesday.

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"To me what matters is that Scotland is doing better now than we were before Christmas, and better than we might have been had we not taken action to stem transmission,” she said.

"How we are faring relative to England or anywhere else is not, in my view, the key comparison.

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"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 the UK Statistics Authority that the data I cited was accurate.”

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