Ferret Fact Service: a year of fact-checking by the numbers 6

Ferret Fact Service: a year of fact-checking by the numbers

Ferret Fact Service has completed its first year of holding politicians, powerful groups and public figures to account for what they say.

Our anniversary falls on International Fact-Checking Day which is held every 2 April to promote accuracy and fact-checking across media and to the public.

To celebrate, we have crunched the numbers on a year of fact-checking to find out who told you the truth and who spread false information.

Ferret Fact Service by numbers

In the past year, we have checked 97 statements and claims across 64 published articles on our website, theferret.scot, and in national newspapers – Daily Record, Sunday Herald and the Irish Times.

Our fact-checks have had more than 24,000 online shares and been read approximately 1.9 million times across print and online.

Our internationally-accredited fact-checking work has led to Hansard corrections. We have been cited at least 30 times in national newspapers and our work is regularly mentioned on television and radio.

A year in fact-checking

In our first year, we found 24 per cent of our fact-checks to be True, 24 per cent to be Mostly True.

Fifteen per cent were given a Half True verdict, while 14 per cent were found to be Mostly False.

Ferret Fact Service gave a False rating to 22 per cent of claims, while just two per cent got our lowest verdict of FFS (for fact’s sake!).

More than three-quarters of our checks were focused on claims by political parties and politicians.

Our political party/politician fact checks were split between four parties, with the SNP and its representatives being fact-checked the most times (36 claims checked).

The Labour party were checked for accuracy 20 times while the Conservatives faced 17 fact-checks. The Greens were fact-checked just once, for a claim on additional support needs teachers.

We also fact checked influential public figures and interest groups who were not explicitly party-political. This made up five per cent of our work.

A central focus for Ferret Fact Service was fact-checking unverified viral stories and claims online, so 13 per cent of our fact-checks were on viral content.

These included non-political claims such as a widely-shared Reddit post claiming Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca-Cola is not the most popular soft-drink due to our love for Irn-Bru (it isn’t).

We also put to rest a long standing False claim about Buckfast being a factor in 40 per cent of Scottish crimes, which had been cited by numerous news sources over the past decade.

There are some issues which need a bit of explaining but are not True or False, which is why we put together explainers on issues such as the gender pay gap, immigration in Scotland, and EU trade.

We also trialled a groundbreaking live fact-check on the STV 2017 general election debate, coordinating our fact checking with a panel of experts who added context and clarity to the debate between Scottish party leaders.

How did the parties stack up?

Here’s how the SNP, Labour and the Tories performed, according to our verdicts over the past year.

The SNP had the largest percentage of True and Mostly True claims, with 75 per cent of our fact-checks on the party concluding with one of these ratings.

Labour had a similar proportion of True verdicts, but around one in five of the claims we checked was either False or Mostly False.

The party with most False claims was the Conservatives, with 70 per cent of claims checked found to be either Mostly False, False or FFS.


We have fact-checked numerous political party figures from across the spectrum, but who got the best Ferret Fact Service ratings?

Of those politicians with more than one fact-check against their name, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard got the most True ratings with four. Kezia Dugdale (three claims) and Nicola Sturgeon (five claims) have both avoided any of our False verdicts.

Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson was given the most False ratings of any politician on the list, having been caught making three false statements.

Only two people have been given our worst rating, FFS! This verdict is reserved for claims that are “baseless, ridiculous and/or logically impossible!”

Former trade minister and Brexit campaigner Lord Digby Jones was given an FFS for claiming on 11 July, 2017 that trade deals with the US and Australia were “in the bag”.

The dubious honour of our second FFS rating was given to Conservative politician Dean Lockhart MSP for overestimating the number of nurses, police officers and train drivers in Scotland by more than 300,000!

The future of FFS

Ferret Fact Service has had an incredible year, and we hope that our work has helped to increase the quality of debate and made politicians think twice before repeating false and misleading claims.

We need your help! More than 20 per cent of our fact-checks come from reader suggestions, so if you see a suspicious claim, tweet us @FerretScot or email factcheck@theferret.scot.

The Ferret relies on the generous support our subscribers to keep going. If you’d like to see the Ferret Fact Service continue to hold politicians of all parties to account, you can subscribe now.

Join us

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

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