Scottish Daily Mail

Holyrood bid to curb SNP ‘spin’

- By Rachel Watson Deputy Scottish Political Editor

SNP ministers should no longer be allowed an early look at official statistics, according to a Holyrood committee.

It follows concerns about the Scottish Government putting a positive spin on statistics.

Most members of Holyrood’s economy committee backed the ban on pre-releasing data.

Their report notes a potential for confusion between independen­t figures and government commentary.

It states: ‘While there is no evidence of the statistics being subject to “influence” prior to their publicatio­n, the greater concern is around the opportunit­y to “spin” the numbers in a positive way in advance of any other commentato­r or political party being able to respond.’

Last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Bank of England scrapped pre-release access for UK Government ministers.

The Holyrood committee report states that the prevailing view of its six Labour, Tory and Green MSPs was that early access should end. Four SNP members instead backed a ‘presumptio­n’ against early access, following the committee’s inquiry on economic data in Scotland.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour economy spokesman, said: ‘Access to credible and impartial statistics is an essential part of democratic life – and should be even more important in an era of fake news.

‘SNP spin doctors receive crucial economic data in advance of everyone else. Not only does this allow them to massage and put a gloss on often disappoint­ing figures, but it does not follow best practice.’

The inquiry found no evidence of a problem with the independen­ce of the production of statistics.

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.’

The Government will ‘consider carefully’ the recommenda­tions.

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