Make political parties publish their budgets before elections
JACKIE Baillie is entirely correct in her suggestion that we need a Scottish version of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and to have it in place before the next Scottish elections in 2016 (“Nation needs watchdog to weed out parties’ financial fantasy”, Another Voice, 18 January).
As someone who struggled with the constant political attempts to compare apples and pears in the referendum campaign, I would suggest we need to go slightly further than that. Might I suggest that, prior to elections, every party standing is required to publish a budget, and that this budget is produced in a common format that other parties, the Scottish OBR, academics, media and financial commentators and interested members of the public can all understand?
If we are going to have new financial powers in Scotland, and we think we can use these in a progressive and transparent manner, then we need to create a new ethos from the outset, to which all parties would be required to adhere to. A common format of budgeting would allow us to compare apples with apples, and deter efforts at deception. It would help parties during any coalition negotiations, and avoid any suggestion that the new Scottish OBR could in any way be manipulated, in the way that the current Scottish fiscal group evidently is.
Now is the time to write the rules for this and cement a better ethos with regards to financial management and transparent accountability in the Scottish Parliament. I hope that all political parties can get behind the general principle of what Jackie Baillie is setting out, and deliver us the detail that would really make it work.
Victor Clements, Aberfeldy