The Office for Statistics Regulation has written to the Scottish Government to rebuke the First Minister for her use of figures on care home visiting at First Minister's Questions which the agency described as "a very loose approximation based on incomplete data".
Responding to a question from Mr Rennie on 17 September, the First Minister said that "around 40 per cent of the care homes around the country now allow and enable indoor visiting."
However in a letter from Ed Humpherson, the Director General of Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority to Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician at the Scottish Government, Mr Humpherson notes that "Based on data subsequently set out in an FOI response this figure seems to be a very loose approximation based on incomplete data and referring to both indoor and outdoor visiting. Some health boards either had not supplied figures or did not know the figures and these represented a significant proportion of the care homes in Scotland."
He went on to note: "Some of the risk of this would have been mitigated if the management information had been published quickly in an accessible form. It should not have been necessary to wait for the information to be published as part of an FOI response."
Commenting on the rebuke, Mr Rennie said:
"I asked the First Minister about care home visiting because I was hearing time and time again from constituents that government promises to enable safe access were falling flat.
"It would have been better if the First Minister had been open about the scale of the challenge, rather than try to pull the wool over people's eyes with partial statistics.
"It is rare for the UK Statistics Authority to step into the fray and deliver such a stinging rebuke. I would now like to see the First Minister get on with enabling elderly and vulnerable people to safely reunite with the loved ones."
A letter to Willie Rennie from the Chair of the UK Statistics Agency can be found here
The FOI exposing the flaws in the Scottish Government figures can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000089350/
The letter rebuking the Scottish Government is here: