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Andy Wightman highlighted the point that there seemed to be an inconsistency whereby Mr Mackay said that he had no influence over the chief statistician but was able to come back and say that he was prepared to put forward some kind of proposal that the chief statistician would agree to.
Both the minister and the finance secretary have tried to muddy the waters a bit today by making it about people’s confidence in the chief statistician.
Nobody is in any way suggesting that they have anything but confidence in the chief statistician; they are saying that, if statistical information can be made available to the Government and to the Scotland Office, it should be made available to this legislature and to the public. It is really quite straightforward.
My good friend Richard Lyle said that he does not see a problem with the Government’s position. However, as Gordon Lindhurst pointed out, a whole host of distinguished academics, policy wonks and think tanks say that there is a problem. It is as though the Government is doing a Boris Johnson and putting its hands over its ears. It is unwilling to listen to the evidence that has been clearly presented by many academics and others with expertise in the field, who say that a change is needed. I hope that the Government, even at this late stage, will accept that a modest change needs to be made and will proceed to make it.