top of page
academy-celebrate-celebration-267885 cop

Did Jo Swinson MP use "false figures" when referring to the number of Govan school leavers attending university?


A political row has broken out after Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Jo Swinson said on BBC Question Time that only 4% of school leavers in Govan, Glasgow, go to university.


SNP politicians have claimed the figures are ‘false’.


What is the truth?

Jo Swinson.jpeg

The Claims:

"Good to see @joswinson go for the leadership of her party - but I hope she will have the good grace to acknowledge that she is wrong about the aspirations & achievements of young people from Govan. Work to be done but real progress is being made on widening access to university."

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister

Twitter, 31st May 2019

“Epic fail @joswinson Figures for the two secondary schools covering Govan with pupils going to higher education are 23.68% and 44.97% for 2017/18. But then I don’t suppose you cared about boring stuff like accuracy. @bbcquestiontime”

Chris Cunningham, SNP councillor for Garscadden/Scotstounhill and Convener for Education, Skills and Early Years on Glasgow City Council.

Twitter, 31st May 2019

“I didn’t go to university but I did go to Govan High School - the area Jo Swinson is smearing with false figures. They taught us to do our homework, which if Jo had bothered to do she’d know that what she’s saying is absolute rubbish.”

Stewart McDonald, SNP MP for Glasgow South. Twitter, 31st May 2019

“FACT CHECK: Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson claimed that only 4% of pupils from Govan go from high school to university. 

"Figures show 22.8% of leavers from Govan High School in 2016-17 went on to university."

SNP's official Fact Checking service, '@theSNPMedia' 

Twitter, 31st May 2019 (later deleted)

The facts

  • Jo Swinson said on BBC Question Time: “The money that you invest in the early years of education and before education is where you get the biggest benefits.  I represent a very middle-class affluent constituency [East Dunbartonshire]. In one of the towns, 80% of young children go to university. Five or six miles down the road in Glasgow Govan, it’s 4%.”



  • Jo Swinson has confirmed that she was using the Scottish Government's own figures. 


  • The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD16), published by the Scottish Government, identifies seven zones in the area of Govan and Linthouse. The proportion of 17-21 year olds entering into full time higher education is recorded at 4% or below for each zone.


  • According to Glasgow City Council's Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, 23.68% left Govan High School to go on to higher education, including 13.16% who left school to go to university


What the experts say

“The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across all of Scotland in a consistent way. It allows effective targeting of policies and funding where the aim is to wholly or partly tackle or take account of area concentrations of multiple deprivation.”

Scottish Government,


Scotland in Union Fact Check Conclusion:

SNP politicians have been quick to attack Jo Swinson, accusing her of using ‘false figures’. In fact, the SIMD figures she used are produced by the SNP Scottish Government, and are used by ministers to identify how public spending should be targeted.

Govan High School and the Director of Education for Glasgow have been quick to tweet the statistics for their school leavers' destinations, but Jo did not single out a particular school.  She was referring to the figures for the area of Govan and Linthouse.  Nor did she blame teachers or their students for the statistic she quoted.  No one is in any doubt of the great work they are doing.

An SNP MP has accused Jo of smearing Govan, when nothing could be further from the truth.  It is clear that she was standing up for the young people of Govan who she believes deserve the same life chances as the young people in her own constituency and indeed throughout the country.   They are being let down by a Scottish Government focussed on breaking up the UK rather than tackling the inequalities suffered in Scotland.  They are being let down by a First Minister who is allowing this to happen on her own doorstep, as Govan's MSP.

The fact is, it is SNP politicians who have chosen to smear today, with Jo Swinson as their target.  This appeared to be easier for them than responding to the point that she made, that early investment in children is essential to build their aspirations and allow them to realise their potential.


Did Jo Swinson MP use "false figures" when referring to the number of Govan school leavers attending university?

The most recent figures that are available from the Scottish Government state that the proportion of 17-21 year olds in higher education in Govan is 4% or below. 

Jo Swinson deserves an unreserved apology from those falsely accusing her of lying.

academy-celebrate-celebration-267885 cop


bottom of page