CLAIMS that the Deputy First Minister attempted to spin Covid statistics to boast about the effectiveness of restrictions in Scotland have been labelled “totally unfounded” by the Scottish Government.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie yesterday reported John Swinney to the UK Statistics Authority over his use of Office of National Statistics (ONS) data – claiming he had used information before Christmas to try and show restrictions introduced after Christmas were effective.

The UK Statistics Authority confirmed to the Herald that it has received Ms Baillie’s complaint and has been referred to the Office for Statistics Regulation to investigate it.

Last year, Mr Swinney apologised after the Scottish Conservatives complained to the watchdog over his use of a misleading graphic (below) relating to face masks.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: John Swinney reported to UK Statistics Authority over 'misleading' face masks graphic

The Deputy First Minister claimed it was impossible for two people who are wearing masks and six feet apart from contracting Covid.

The Scottish Government was unable to validate the source of the information and Mr Swinney said sorry and deleted the inaccurate tweet.

That came one month after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for “inaccurate” child Covid claims.

The First Minister hit back at the latest claims against Mr Swinney, insisting he was using the most up-to-date information made available by the ONS.

Speaking in a virtual meeting of Holyrood on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Deputy First Minister used the most up to date Office for National Statistics data.

“There will always be a lag in data, but data will still show that our one in 20 rate, although it is very high, is certainly still lower than the rate in England."

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: John Swinney reported to UK Statistics Authority over 'deliberate spin' of ONS data

But in her letter to the statistics watchdog, Ms Baillie has warned she is “deeply concerned to hear John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery, wrongly use statistics from before the festive period to suggest that restrictions across Scotland, introduced by the Scottish Government, resulted in only 1 in 40 Scots contracting Covid-19, as compared to 1 in 25 in England.”

She added: “The correct use of statistics and data is vital to encourage public confidence, rather than the deliberate spin deployed by the Deputy First Minister.”

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed that “transparency has ebbed away” over data.

Tory leader Douglas Ross added: “Tackling the virus is not a competition, but John Swinney has tried to make it one.

“Why is the Cabinet Secretary who is responsible for Covid recovery using misleading data to make petty political points, instead of giving people the accurate information that they need?”

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But the Scottish Government has completely refuted the claims.

A Scottish Government spokesman 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 on Wednesday, which estimates around one in 15 people in England tested positive for Covid in the week ending December 31, compared to one in 20 in Scotland.”