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Pre-release Access to Economic Statistics (Committee Bill Proposal)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th September 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

No. The cabinet secretary has only just arrived in the chamber. Had he been here for the whole debate, I might have taken his intervention. Let me say to him—[

Interruption

.] Clearly, the Scottish Government is wiser than all those experts in the field and is going to do something different.

The SNP’s arguments are weak. The SNP says that we do not have a problem—what complacency. It says that ministers need time to have an issue explained to them. I think that ministers are not stupid people; I think that they get it. The SNP then says that journalists will not understand it, but I think that the problem might be that journalists understand it all too well. I ask the Scottish Government: if it is such a minor measure, why not just do it?

I know that the SNP loves nation building; it loves talking about Scotland leading the UK and even leading the world. [

Interruption

.] Despite the cabinet secretary’s heckling from a sedentary position, I like that too. However, in this area, the Government surely cannot be content to be described as secretive or to be second best. In truth, it wants privileged access to the statistics so that it has time to spin them. There is a growing culture of secrecy and a lack of transparency in Government, and it is not only about pre-release access. I am glad that the finance secretary is here, because it is also about the Government’s failure to publish financial information for 10 months and its deliberate delays to FOI responses.

Let us not forget that the SNP has form with statistics—it had its knuckles rapped before by the UK Statistics Authority. I will not dwell on that, because Andy Wightman is right—this is not just about this Government. We must not allow any Government, whatever its political stripe, to weaponise statistics and spin them for its own political agenda.

This is about the fundamental machinery of Government, and the nation deserves better. I ask members to support the committee bill proposal.