New think tank to scrutinise Scots public sector

John McLaren is one of the think tank's executive directors. Picture: Phil WilkinsonJohn McLaren is one of the think tank's executive directors. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
John McLaren is one of the think tank's executive directors. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
A NEW economic think tank has been set up to scrutinise public spending and Scotland’s public sector.

The independent body Fiscal Studies Scotland is chaired by former auditor general for Scotland Robert Black, and includes prominent economists as part of its team.

Both Jo Armstrong and John McLaren, economists who are honorary professors of public policy at Glasgow University, are executive directors of the think tank.

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Mr Black said: “Fiscal Studies Scotland will help to inform the public debate in Scotland about the prospects for our public finances and how to improve the efficiency and performance of the public sector.”

He stressed that the think tank was “politically neutral”, stating: “We are driven by a desire to improve understanding in Scotland about the big economic and fiscal challenges we are facing, and to identify scope for improvement.”

Mr Black said: “As a mature, successful democracy Scotland needs a body which will undertake objective analysis of fiscal issues and scrutinise, from an independent, non-political standpoint, the efficiency and effectiveness of the Scottish devolved budget and the performance of key sectors in the Scottish economy. The trustees are certain Fiscal Studies Scotland will offer a key part of that evidence-based scrutiny.”

Prof Armstrong, who together with Professor McLaren was previously part of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, said: “Scotland faces severe economic and fiscal challenges irrespective of the outcome of the 2014 Scottish referendum. An independent ability to analyse economic and fiscal issues is key to holding governments and public bodies to account and to developing effective public policy.”

Meanwhile Prof McLaren said: “Scotland currently lacks the capacity to independently scrutinise the effectiveness of economic policies and to provide objective analysis of the performance of the public sector. Our hope is that Fiscal Studies Scotland can play an important role in improving understanding of the economic and fiscal challenges facing Scotland, both now and in the future.”

Trustees at the new think tank include Professor Richard Harris, head of economics and finance at Durham University and former director of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, Professor Gavin McCrone, former chief economic adviser at the pre-devolution Scottish Office, Lorna Jack, the chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, and Jane Ryder, former chief executive of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Fiscal Studies Scotland will also be guided by an advisory board made up of leading academic and professional figures, which will be chaired by Professor Sir John Arbuthnott, who will soon step down from his role as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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