UK Statistics Authority says Scottish Government crimefighting figures fall below their standard of trustworthiness
The Scottish Government has defended the accuracy of its crimefighting figures after UK statisticians warned that they do not meet the required standard of trustworthiness.
The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said the Scottish Government has generally shown a "commitment to demonstrate strong reassurance of police recorded crime statistics".
But it was "unable to confirm that the ‘clear up rates’ presented in Recorded Crime in Scotland can be designated as National Statistics" because of "a lack of external assurance".
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The Scottish Government has said recorded crime is at its lowest level in 42 years, with the highest clear up rate since 1976 at 51.6 per cent.
According to the data, 84.4 per cent of attempted murders and serious assaults were cleared up, as were 74.1 per cent of sexual crimes.
The Scottish Government said it has "no reason to doubt the accuracy of crime clear up rates" but welcomed the additional scrutiny.
Opposition parties said the government has "form for fiddling figures" and presenting "questionable statistics".
In a letter to the Scottish Government, UKSA director general for regulation Ed Humpherson said: "In the context of high profile statistics such as police recorded crime, we have been clear that systematic published audit of the underlying data is essential to increase both the quality of, and public confidence in, these statistics.
"We therefore consider that the Scottish Government should seek independent assurance about the quality of the data underlying the ‘clear up rates’.
He added: "National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value and is something to be celebrated. We invite you to include a statement alongside the statistics which reflects this status."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The UK Statistics Authority will consider the classification of clear-up rates once HMICS have carried out an independent audit of this information next year.
"It is important to note that the recent HMICS Crime Audit 2016 found that the quality of most police crime and recording decisions is good in contrast to reports produced by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for England & Wales – the latest of which found a ‘systemic failure’ in crime recording by England’s second largest force - Greater Manchester.
“Whilst we have no reason to doubt the accuracy of crime clear-up rates, we would welcome this extra level of scrutiny, which will ensure Scotland’s crime statistics continue to meet the highest levels of public trust and value.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Douglas Ross said: "The SNP has form for fiddling figures of this nature, after deciding that crimes and offences should be totted up differently, creating an impression of lower crime levels. Maybe the Scottish Government should spend less time bragging about statistics, and more time trying to sort out Police Scotland at a time when public confidence in it has never been so low."
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: "This is not the first time the Scottish Government has been caught using questionable statistics to make political points."