DOUGLAS Ross has claimed that John Swinney used “misleading” Covid-19 data to make a “petty political point”.

Nicola Sturgeon gave an update to a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament regarding changes to self isolation and testing rules in Scotland on Wednesday.

After her statement, Scottish Tory leader Ross launched criticism at Covid Recovery minister Swinney for citing ONS data on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday.

Swinney had claimed the figures showed “strong evidence” restrictions in Scotland were having an impact on infection rates, adding that in Scotland one in 40 people had been infected with the virus, whereas in England this was one in 25.

READ MORE: Omicron in Scotland: Where are the confirmed cases of the Covid variant?

However, the figures were from before restrictions were introduced, and Ross claimed that the most recent data showed the “opposite” of what Swinney had claimed.

The latest figures from the ONS, released on January 5 as the First Minister was giving her statement, state that one in 20 people in Scotland have the virus, compared to one in 15 in England.

The First Minister said that Swinney was using the most up to date data available, and that this week's figures show that virus rates in Scotland are still lower than England, but added it was “not a competition”.

Ross made a plea for clinical data behind the changes to isolation rules to be released, before turning his attention to Swinney’s comments.

He said: “Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister, the man who sits in her cabinet in charge of Covid recovery stated that virus rates were lower in Scotland compared to England because of the actions taken by the SNP.

“But John Swinney was using data from before the SNP’s restrictions were introduced, and the most recent data shows in fact the opposite of what he claimed.

“Tackling this virus is not a competition, but John Swinney tried to make it one. So why is the minister for covid recovery using misleading data to make petty political points instead of giving people the accurate information they need?”

The First Minister, who after responding to Ross’s points about Scotland being an outlier over isolation rules in the UK and the clinical advice behind the decision, turned to his comments regarding Swinney.

The National:

The National:

The latest ONS statistics show a lower prevalence of the virus in Scotland

She said: “He used the most up to date ONS data yesterday, I cited in my statement today data as I understand it 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 show that 1 in 20, very very high, is still lower, certainly than England.

“These things are not a competition, we just all have to take the decisions and judgements to try and navigate the safest possible course through that.”

Throughout the tense exchange between the two party leaders, Ross repeatedly called for the First Minister to release clinical advice from last week and this week, to illustrate what evidence the changes to isolation and testing rules were made.

Sturgeon said that until recently the clinical advice had stated that cutting isolation times would lead to greater transmission of the virus, which outweighed the benefits.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon announces changes to Covid-19 isolation and testing rules

Now, she explained, the “balance of judgement has changed” and that she believes the changes are proportionate to the risks the pandemic poses.

On Scotland being an “outlier” compared to the rest of the UK, as England, Wales and Northern Ireland have also cut isolation times, she said: ”At different times in this pandemic we’ve come to different views, substantively, sometimes we’ve come to the same views on different time scales.

“Right now in protections for example, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are in very similar positions in terms of restrictions on gatherings and some restrictions and protective measures on hospitality, England is an outlier on that.

The National:

The First Minister was not amused by the inference in Ross's question about the ONS figures

“Not just an outlier in a UK sense, but arguably an outlier in a European and more broadly a global sense.

“We all have a responsibility to reach judgements based on clinical advice and the responsibility we have to keep the public in this most challenging of situations and as safe as possible and that’s what I will always do to the best of my ability.”

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that tomorrow’s figures will likely see the number of Covid-19 cases in Scotland since the beginning of the pandemic reach one million.