Nationalist ministers will no longer be able to mark their own homework, Scottish Labour said today, ahead of legislation on the new Scottish Fiscal Commission that is set to be passed by the House of Commons this week.
Labour has consistently argued for an independent Scottish Fiscal Commission with an expanded remit, overcoming opposition from former Finance Secretary John Swinney and SNP MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee.
With the devolution of major new tax and welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament, the independent commission will be responsible for preparing forecasts of tax receipts and assessments of the Scottish government’s borrowing projections. This will come into force from April 2017.
Secondary legislation, to be passed in the House of Commons this week, will make the commission part of the Scottish administration, place a duty on the UK’s Office for Budge Responsibility to co-operate with it, and pave the way for additional responsibilities over economic forecasting and social security to be added in the future.
Scottish Labour’s Westminster spokesman Ian Murray said:
“The newly enhanced and independent Scottish Fiscal Commission will have a vital role in Scottish public life, ensuring the Scottish government is much more accountable for what it spends and how it spends it.
For the first time, Scotland’s public finances will be subject to regular health checks, and the commission’s prominence will only grow as it takes on new responsibilities over economic forecasting and social security expenditure in the future.
But rather than embracing this much-needed additional oversight, the SNP tried to evade it, questioning the capacity of the commission to produce independent forecasts. Rather than opening themselves up to scrutiny, Nationalist ministers wanted to avoid transparency.
Thanks to opposition from Scottish Labour and others, those attempts were thwarted, and the Scottish Fiscal Commission will now be fully independent of government and fully accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The SNP government will no longer be able to mark its own homework.
This means that Nationalist ministers will be held increasingly accountable for their actions. So they should turn over a new leaf, listen to Labour’s advice, use their new tax powers to raise additional funds for Scotland’s public services, like schools and care of the elderly, and ditch their reckless plans to slash £327 million from local authority budgets. If they don’t, there will be nowhere for them to hide.”