Scottish Tories point towards misuse of statistics, while the SNP stay focused on negotiating routes to independence following the upcoming general election.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has been accused of attempting to manipulate statistics to justify a misleading statement he made to the Scottish Parliament.
Mr. Yousaf falsely claimed that Scotland possesses the “majority of the renewables and natural resources” in the UK, when it only holds around 25 percent.
Mr. Yousaf made the claim during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) on June 22.
After being challenged, Mr. Yousaf’s civil servants tried to find a different calculation to support his claim, ultimately arriving at the figure of over 50 percent, on July 3, by calculating renewables “per capita.”
Mr. Yousaf later stated that he had “intended to say ‘per capita'” when addressing the Parliament. Critics argue that he should have admitted his error rather than attempting to ‘manipulate’ data.
Scottish Tory Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Liam Kerr accused Mr. Yousaf of misusing the civil service and called for him to refer himself to the independent advisor on the ministerial code.
In his statement during Thursday’s FMQs, Mr. Kerr remarked, “Weeks of civil service time and effort were spent trying to engineer a face-saving response rather than the First Minister simply admitting that he had misled us all.”
However, Mr. Yousaf chose not to directly respond to the specific allegations, countering with, “I will not take lectures about truth and honesty from the party that gave us Boris Johnson.”
Speaking after the incident, Mr. Kerr added: “When I called out the first minister for misleading parliament, his response should have been to put his hand up and correct the record. Instead he chose to double down and, shockingly, misuse the civil service to attempt to disguise his deception.
“Faced with the evidence at FMQs today, he resorted to a quite disgraceful display of deflection and insults, rather than admit he has been rumbled twice. This kind of behaviour is unworthy of his office. He should now refer himself to the independent advisor on the ministerial code for misleading parliament.”
Communicating with the press, a spokesman for the first minister said: “The fact that we corrected the record speaks for itself and the fact that we disclosed under FOI the discussions that took place in terms of civil servants surely also speaks for transparency.”
He reiterated, “I’m saying we can’t be accused of covering things up and also disclosing things.”
During FMQs, Mr. Yousaf added, “It’s incredible that I have a member who is telling me what I was meaning to say, and meaning to think.”
Mr. Kerr said: “Faced with the evidence at [first minister’s questions] today, [Mr. Yousaf] resorted to a quite disgraceful display of deflection and insults, rather than admit he has been rumbled twice. This kind of behaviour is unworthy of his office. He should now refer himself to the independent advisory on the ministerial code for misleading parliament.”
The news comes as the Scottish National Party (SNP) faces criticism over its pursuit of an alternative route to a second independence referendum, with a proposed motion set for debate at the party’s conference.
The first minister, along with Westminster leader of the SNP, Stephen Flynn, will present the motion, suggesting that if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in the next UK general election (expected in 2024), negotiations on Scottish independence could commence.
The motion underscores that the UK Government’s refusal to allow a democratic referendum justifies exploring this option. It calls for the SNP manifesto to explicitly state that a vote for the party is a vote for Scotland’s independence.
Critics, including Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton and former SNP leader Alex Salmond, argue that this approach lacks credibility and is unlikely to lead to independence negotiations.
The Scottish Conservatives accuse Mr. Yousaf of prioritising independence over pressing issues like the cost of living and healthcare.
An SNP spokesperson stated that Mr. Yousaf’s proposal reflects the party’s aim to contest the next UK general election on the issue of independence and emphasised that the motion is open to amendment before the conference in October.