Ministers should make economic data production more independent from government, recommend MSPs

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 12 February 2018 in News

Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee report says government should "make strenuous efforts to help the public and the media to better understand our economic data"

Ministers in Scotland should consider how to make the production of economic data more independent from government, MSPs on the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee have recommended.

In a new report the committee examined how the Scottish Government handles economic data, with MSPs urging ministers to stop official statistics on market-sensitive data being made available before their publication to those not involved in their production, including Scottish Government ministers and their advisers.

The committee carried out a four-month inquiry to examine the reliability of economic statistics used by the Scottish Government, media and others, concluding that “the Scottish Government must make strenuous efforts to help the public and the media to better understand our economic data, and the profound impact it has on all our day-to-day lives”.

The report also highlights research suggesting the pace of devolution was beginning to ‘expose cracks’ in the UK’s approach to producing economic statistics, given the system was designed to produce data for the UK as a whole rather than the devolved administrations.

The report calls for a feasibility study to be undertaken by the Scottish Government to assess the practicalities of injecting greater independence into the production of economic statistics in Scotland.

Committee convener Gordon Lindhurst said: “There is no suggestion the Scottish Government exercised any undue influence in its early access to economic data, but placing restrictions on pre-release access in certain key areas could be an important step towards reducing public cynicism in those statistics that directly affect them and where greater understanding could bring significant benefits.

“Above all, now is a crucial time for the Scottish Government to consider greater independence for the production of economic statistics in Scotland, and a robust and independent analysis of the kind of data Scotland needs for a strong, thriving and sustainable economy to benefit all.”

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