Our key fact checks of the SNP and Liberal Democrats in the 2019 general election campaign

11th Dec 2019

With the 2019 general election just a day away, we’re rounding up the work we’ve done over the campaign in a series of easy-to-read guides to help you get the facts you need. 

This article summarises our fact checks of claims made by the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats. You can find equivalent articles rounding up our fact checks of claims from the Conservative Party here, of the Labour Party here, and of Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Brexit Party here. (We’d recommend our colleagues at FactCheckNI for fact checks of Northern Irish politics.)

In our work this election, we’ve checked a range of the most important claims from all parties, but we have focused particularly on claims were we suspected there may be inaccuracy or the potential to mislead. All parties have also made accurate claims during this election, which we may not have written about, so we wouldn’t suggest using these roundups to judge how honest any party is overall. At the same time, just because we haven’t written about a particular claim doesn’t mean we’ve verified it as true.

Please follow the links to read our full length fact checks for each of these claims: these include links to all the sources we’ve used (so you can check our work for yourself).

The SNP

The economy

The Westmister parties have bypassed the Barnett Formula.

The SNP manifesto criticised the Conservatives’ pact with the DUP in 2017, saying the Westminster parties had “promised the Barnett Formula would remain but billions have been pledged to other parts of the UK—bypassing Barnett—as part of political pacts with the DUP.”

The Barnett Formula decides how much additional money should go to devolved governments, based on the public spending allocated to England.

We get into this in our fact check, but it isn’t strictly right to say the formula was “bypassed” as the £1 billion grant to Northern Ireland didn’t involve a change to spending in England.

Brexit

“Economic analysis says that [Scotland leaving the customs union and single market] will cost every person in Scotland £1,600.”

We saw the SNP repeat several forms of this claim throughout the campaign: another version said the economy would be 6% worse off. It’s more or less misleading depending on how you word the claim.

Scottish government analysis from January 2018 compared estimates of Scotland’s GDP (which is the total value of everything that happens in its economy) in 2030 in several different scenarios. One scenario estimated that under a free trade agreement post-Brexit, where the UK is outside of the EU’s single market and customs union, Scotland’s GDP would be 6% lower in 2030 than it would have been had the UK remained.

GDP growing by 6% less up to 2030 is the equivalent of about £1,600 per person if you divide that amount of GDP by the population of Scotland.

But it’s not correct to say that slower GDP growth will cost every person £1,600.

Scotland wouldn’t be forced to join the Euro if an independent Scotland rejoined the EU

Nicola Sturgeon was asked during the ITV election interviews whether a hypothetically independent Scotland would be forced to join the euro if it negotiated EU membership as an independent state.

Officially, member states are required to adopt the euro if they join the EU. But there are countries that have negotiated opt-outs, like the UK and Denmark. In practice it's unclear whether members would or could be forced to. 

Police

“Since the SNP took office in Scotland, we have recruited an additional 1,000 police officers”.

The SNP manifesto claimed that there had been an increase in police since they came into power in 2007, this is roughly correct, but needs context. 

Comparing July-September 2007 with the same period in 2019, the number of police officers has increased by 950. But the population has also grown over this period, meaning that the number of people per police officer is roughly the same in 2019 (using population projections) as it was in 2007, at around 316. 

The Liberal Democrats

Brexit and the economy

“£50 billion remain bonus”

The Lib Dems have repeated their claim about a so-called remain bonus throughout the campaign, but this shouldn’t be treated as definitive. It’s based on forecasts saying that staying in the EU would mean UK GDP was 1.9% larger by 2024/25, and that this would generate a “remain bonus” of £50 billion for the government to spend.

We checked their calculations and they seem to be a reasonable assessment of the best available forecasts we have on how the economy could be affected by different Brexit scenarios.

These forecasts are highly uncertain though, so the £50 billion is far from guaranteed.

Campaign tactics

Some of the Lib Dems’ campaign material was problematic this election. In one leaflet, the party claimed “The Liberal Democrats are winning across the country” and, as evidence, included some quotes from the media. 

One of those quotes is attributed to the Guardian: “Lib Dems winning and on the up after by-election victory.” But these are the words of Jo Swinson, reported in the Guardian, who paraphrased her comments in the headline of their piece. The Guardian headline was: ““Jo Swinson: Lib Dems winning and on the up after byelection victory””.

In North East Somerset, the Liberal Democrats claimed on Twitter that the Conservatives were polling 38%, the Lib Dems themselves were on 32%, and Labour were on 8%. In actual fact, those were the results of a poll that asked people who they would vote for if only the Conservative and Liberal Democrats were competitive contenders in the election, and the results were expected to be close.

The party also printed at least two election leaflets that bore more than a passing resemblance to local newspapers. In Winchester, they produced the “Mid Hampshire Gazette”, which only labelled itself as party literature in small print. In London, they published something similar which they called “Lambeth News”.

Environment

“We nearly quadrupled renewable power.”

The party’s deputy leader, Ed Davey, claimed this in November. 

It’s difficult to attribute energy generation to any particular party in power, because there’s often quite a lag between granting a site planning permission and the site coming online, particularly with wind farms. But looking at the closest measure for the Conservative-Lib Dem government’s time in office, the amount of electricity generated from renewable resources tripled between 2009/10 and 2014/15. You could say it nearly quadrupled at a stretch looking at renewables’ share of electricity generation over the same period.

We’ve gone into more detail on this claim here.

In their manifesto, the party also claimed that air pollution has caused “at least 40,000 premature deaths a year.” 

This claim that there are 40,000 premature deaths a year originates from a 2016 report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. 

The figure needs context. Air pollution isn’t named as the sole cause of anybody’s death, so this isn’t literally 40,000 people who’ve died because of it. Air pollution contributes to conditions like cancer, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia.

What this means is that air pollution makes a small contribution to the deaths of many more than 40,000 people. But if you were to add up all those contributions, it would probably total the equivalent of around 40,000 deaths. 

In any case, this figure is uncertain as it’s difficult to pinpoint what’s contributing to people’s illnesses. 

Health

Their manifesto also said that “the average wait for patients for a routine GP appointment is now more than two weeks”.

We’d actually checked this claim before, it’s not a reliable figure.

It’s based on a UK survey from a magazine for GPs, called Pulse, and is about non-urgent GP appointments. Its findings can’t really tell us how long patients wait for GP appointments as we have no idea if the practices that responded are representative.