THE UK government is “seriously considering” a proposal to create an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in Scotland to stop SNP ministers from “manipulating” economic figures.
With new powers going to Holyrood in the current Scotland Bill including control over most of income tax and £2.5 billion of welfare measures, pro-UK parties want to highlight the effects of decisions taken by SNP ministers and put pressure on them to justify their actions instead of blaming Westminster.
The Scotsman has learned that Tory ministers are now looking favourably on a Labour amendment to create a Scottish OBR.
It comes as the SNP have put in a new amendment for full fiscal autonomy (FFA), to give Holyrood full control of tax and spend north of the Border.
The move was mocked at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) yesterday as being “a full fiscal shambles” as David Cameron challenged the SNP to use powers to “raise tax.”
The original OBR was created by George Osborne in 2010 to provide independent analysis on the economy and UK government tax and spend decisions to prevent future Chancellors from providing an inaccurate rosy picture of the nations finances.
It is envisaged that a Scottish OBR would provide the same scrutiny to Scottish Government decisions.
A senior UK government source said: “We are seriously considering this idea.”
The amendment is set to be debated on Monday.
The UK government is also looking at having an independent inquiry into the impact of FFA. They are unlikely to accept an amendment from Labour to launch the inquiry as part of the bill but will look at setting one up anyway.
Welcoming the government’s response on a Scottish OBR, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “The proposal to set this up is an attempt to remove the manipulation and politicisation of Scottish Government figures by the SNP.
“It’s clear the SNP merely dismisses expert analysis of Scotland’s finances as we have seen with their economically illiterate FFA proposals.
“A Scottish OBR would also provide independent and impartial transparency on Scottish Government figures and, additionally, political party manifestos so the people of Scotland can get an accurate picture.”
In clashes in PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson reminded Mr Cameron that he and other pro-UK leaders promised Scotland “Home Rule and as closer to federalism as is possible” in the vow at the end of the independence referendum campaign.
But he complained that the Scotland Bill will “not even deliver the limited Smith Commission promises”.
But Mr Cameron said: “The truth is the Scottish National Party only want to talk about process, they don’t dare talk about which powers they have been given they would like to use. Why don’t you put up taxes and spend more money? The reality is that their policy of full fiscal autonomy has become FFS – full fiscal shambles.”