JOHN Swinney has responded to criticism after he shared a "misleading" face masks graphic on Twitter.

The deputy first minister was reported to the UK Statistics Authority by the Scottish Tories after posting the image on social media on Monday.

The graphic claims to show the risk of transmission decreasing when face masks are worn. It displays two people at the top wearing no face masks with no social distancing which it claims puts them at a 90% chance of transmission, while two people at the bottom of the graphic are seen social distancing and wearing face masks which the graphic purports puts them at a 0% chance of transmission.

Swinney tweeted today: "I shared an image on Monday to illustrate that masks and distancing can help stop Covid transmission.

"I have now deleted the image as the figures in it were not verified. Sorry for that. But the message is unchanged: masks and distancing remain critical to beating this virus."



Tory health spokesperson Annie Wells has written to the UK’s national statistician, Ian Diamond, asking for their input on the use of a graphic on the effectiveness of wearing a face mask against Covid.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said she would “reflect” on the use of this information but also defended Swinney for posting the graphic.

Wells said: “More than 48 hours after journalists and the Scottish Conservatives raised concerns about this misleading graphic, no action has been taken.

“A message from the Deputy First Minister that is essentially fake news has been retweeted nearly 1000 times and has likely reached an audience in the tens or possibly even hundreds of thousands.

“We have given the SNP every opportunity to admit their mistake and fix this. It has also been raised directly with the First Minister and Scottish Government officials by the media.

“The continued use of an unverified graphic like this is potentially dangerous.

"It undermines the serious public health message that masks can limit the spread of the virus. It may even convince some people that there is zero risk from Covid in certain situations, which is not supported by science.

“The repeatedly poor judgement from the SNP Government on this issue is concerning. Fake news must be stamped out and we have reported this graphic to the UK Statistics Authority for their input, since SNP Ministers will not act.”

READ MORE: Tories report John Swinney to UK Statistics Authority over face masks graphic

Speaking at her Covid briefing yesterday, the First Minister defended Swinney.

She said: "The Deputy First Minister tweeted an image that was intended to illustrate what is absolutely the case – that wearing face masks protects people from transmission of the virus.

"He was illustrating that point, and I think the more we can illustrate that point, the better.

"What I will say in addition to that is that I think we recognise that in seeking to illustrate that, we should take care to use properly verified graphics, and we'll certainly take that on board in terms of how we tweet that information in future.

"But getting the general point across, he is absolutely right to seek to do, as I seek to do on a general, ongoing basis as well."