Opposition MSPs plan legislation to stop SNP ministers ‘spinning’ statistics

New legislation could stop Scottish ministers from having early access to official statistics.

Jackie Baillie. Picture: TSPL
Jackie Baillie. Picture: TSPL

Following a recommendation from a parliamentary report, a majority of opposition MSPs on the economy committee supported plans to limit access to figures.

Currently Scottish ministers and their staff can see market-sensitive data one day before it is made public.

Other publications deemed not to be as sensitive are being sent to ministers up to five days early.

Opposition MSPs have claimed the extra time allows ministers to launch “spin operations”, which could affect the way the figures will be reported.

A new bill to be brought forward today will seek to end the practice, bringing the Scottish system in line with that of the rest of the UK.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “For too long SNP ministers have got away with trying to bend statistics to suit their political agenda.

“The excellent work of leading statisticians is being weaponised by the SNP before they have even been published. This bill will seek to bring the SNP government into line with best practice on statistical publications around the UK.”

She added: “The fact that the SNP was the only party not supporting the bill proposal in committee tells its own story. What is it that they have to hide?”

In December, the UK statistics watchdog rapped the Scottish Government for “misleading the public” after health secretary Jeane Freeman claimed the Scottish Patient Safety Programme had saved almost 10,000 lives.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Pre-release access is a matter for the chief statistician and the independence of his role is crucial. Any proposal to curtail access would cut across his ability to ensure key figures are properly communicated.”