UK Statistics Authority ticks off FM for using unpublished figures

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie today questioned the First Minister after the UK Statistics Authority published a letter to the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician condemning the First Minister’s practice of using unpublished management information in place of official statistics.

The statistics were published on the ISD website this morning on the instruction of the UK Statistics Authority.

In response to Willie Rennie’s questioning on treatment time guarantees at FMQs on 28th February, the First Minister quoted unpublished and unverifiable numbers derived from internal management information.

The Director General for Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority, Ed Humpherson, said:

“There is an important general principle here. Information that supports public debate should be available to everyone, and should be open to public scrutiny. Where, as in this case, the information is not equally available to all, there is a risk to public confidence in statistics.”

“Waiting times are a major concern to patients and their families. The statistics informing debates about them must therefore be trustworthy, of suitable quality, and useful. We are therefore extremely disappointed that it has been necessary for us to intervene in this way.”

Willie Rennie commented:

“The First Minister has been rightly ticked off by the UK Statistics Authority but she’s refusing to apologise.

“This is the second time the regulator has had to intervene because of misused statistics. People are right to demand that the information referenced in parliament is accurate and fairly sourced.

“These statistics weren’t available until today, because the stats authority forced the government’s hand. It was the First Minister who passed the treatment time law and it’s her government that’s missing it by the biggest margin ever. There’s no way to get away from that.”

The letter from the Director General for Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority can be found here.

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