The role, resourcing and independence of the body charged with examining Scottish Government tax forecasts are to be examined in a new inquiry launched today by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.
The Committee is seeking views on the Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill.
A report published by the Committee earlier this year on Scotland’s Fiscal Framework recommended that the draft Bill be amended to give the Commission the remit to carry out its own fiscal forecasts, rather than the role proposed in the Bill to assess the reasonableness of Scottish Government forecasts.
That recommendation has not been incorporated into the Bill introduced to Parliament last month, and the Committee is keen to receive views specifically on the role and ability of the SFC to carry out independent scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s own forecasts.
Committee Convener, Kenneth Gibson MSP, said:
“The Committee has previously called for the Scottish Fiscal Commission to be empowered to carry out its own forecasts. That function has not been included in the legislation, so we would be interested to hear people’s views on just what the role of the Commission should be. It’s important that evidence on this is considered before the Bill progresses through Parliament.
“Witnesses have previously stressed the need for independence and transparency in the operation of the Commission. We’ve also heard of the need for the Commission to be adequately resourced and we would welcome comment on that point too.”
The Committee is calling for evidence in relation to the Bill’s provisions. These include:
- Forecasting tax revenues
- The role of the SFC prior to the publication of Scottish Government forecasts
- Additional functions of the Commission that may follow the passing of the Scotland Bill currently under consideration at Westminster
- Right of Access to Information
- Appointment of Members and Staff
The Commission has been operating on a non-statutory basis since June 2014, providing scrutiny and analysis of the forecasts of receipts and other fiscal projections made by the Government in preparation of its Budget.
To date, the Commission’s work has focussed around tax and borrowing powers devolved under the 2012 Scotland Act. This includes scrutinising Scottish Government forecasts of receipts for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, the Scottish Landfill Tax and business rates.