The UK’s chief statistician has waded into a dispute over offshore wind that has escalated into a full-scale political row in Scotland, home to some of the industry’s most ambitious projects.

Sir Robert Chote, chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), said his office is talking to the governing Scottish National Party (SNP) over its use of an “inaccurate” claim that Scotland’s waters have 25% of Europe’s offshore wind potential.

The UKSA was called in by Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats in Scotland’s devolved parliament, over what he claimed was a decade of misuse of the figure by SNP officials, with references as recent as November.

In his reply to Cole-Hamilton’s complaint, Chote said the 25% figure was based on a 2010 Scottish government report citing estimates that Scotland has an offshore wind potential of 25GW and Europe one of 102GW.

“However, these figures are derived from separate studies that are both more than 20 years old and not directly comparable,” said the UKSA chief, adding that they include a “very conservative approach” to the European potential.

“The figure is also based on just 11 countries from the then European Community and excludes countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland which have large offshore wind potential.”

Chote said: “In summary, the calculation for Europe’s offshore wind potential was much more restrictive than that for Scotland. So, when the figures are used together, they give an inflated picture of Scotland’s potential relative to the rest of Europe.”

The UKSA said the SNP has apparently acknowledged that the figure is outdated, adding that it is engaging with the party about its ongoing use of the claim “to emphasise the importance of using quantitative evidence appropriately”.

The statistical body is also helping to seek sources for a more accurate figure to help end a row that has received high-profile media coverage in Scotland and seen questions directed at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the issue.

Cole-Hamilton told The Herald newspaper: "I fully support the expansion of Scotland’s renewable sector but the strong case is undermined when the Scottish Government and SNP use figures which leave them open to the charge of misleading and misrepresenting.”

Scotland under the SNP has emerged as a major offshore wind powerhouse, with a target to install 11GW by 2030.

The nation has launched two pioneering leasing rounds in the shape of the giant ScotWind process that was hailed as a pivotal moment for global floating wind and INTOG, which is seeking to tap wind to help decarbonise North Sea oil and gas.