THE Scottish Government has hit back at claims John Swinney used “misleading” Covid data and said they are “totally unfounded”.

The Deptuty First Minister, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday, suggested Office for National Statistics (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”.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross called the use of the statistics “misleading” after the First Minister’s Covid-19 update on Wednesday, and claimed Swinney used them to make a “petty political point”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended her Deputy and Covid Recovery Secretary in her response, stating that he was using the most recent data available at the time.

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And, on Thursday, Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie reported Swinney to the UK Statistics Authority, writing she was “deeply concerned” to hear the statistics allegedly being misrepresented.

However, the Scottish Government has hit back at the suggestions and said Swinney was making an “entirely valid point”.

The latest updated ONS figures were released on Wednesday, which 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.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These claims are totally unfounded. Prior to Boxing Day there were already substantial differences in COVID protections between Scotland and England – most importantly on wearing face coverings.

“The Deputy First Minister made the entirely valid point that the different approach we are taking in Scotland is helping protect the population from the virus, using the latest available ONS data published at the time.

“This point is backed up by the latest ONS data published yesterday, which estimates around 1 in 15 people in England tested positive for COVID in the week ending 31 December, compared to 1 in 20 in Scotland.

“As the First Minister made clear yesterday, it is entirely right that Public Health Scotland (PHS) is given time to ensure the data used to differentiate those in hospital because of Covid from those who are in hospital with Covid is robust, and latest analysis from that work will be available in the PHS COVID Weekly Report tomorrow.”

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We previously told how Scottish Labour’s Baillie had reported Swinney to the statistics authority.

In the letter to the watchdog’s chairman Sir David Norgrove, 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 Swinney, 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 National:

Baillie reported Swinney to the UK Statistics Authority

“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.”

On Tuesday, Sturgeon defended Swinney as using the most up to date data from the ONS.

She said: “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.

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“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.”

It comes as the number of positive Covid cases recorded in Scotland passed one million.