The Finance Committee is keen to emphasise the importance of ensuring the independence, transparency and non-partisan nature of the Scottish Government’s proposed Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) in a report published today.
The report on proposals for a SFC - an independent forecasting body - makes a number of recommendations regarding the role and remit of the body as well as its relationship with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament.
The Committee report makes it clear that whatever forecasting remit is ultimately decided, it is essential the SFC’s independence is firmly established.
Finance Committee Convener Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“We very much welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to establish an independent SFC. After hearing evidence from numerous experts from home and abroad we believe it is vital for the SFC to be independent, transparent and non-partisan. We therefore welcome the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary that the new body will not only be independent but will be seen to be so.
“While we recognise that the scale and role of an SFC needs to be proportionate with current constitutional arrangements, it is worth noting there are currently no other organisations within Scotland providing independent fiscal and macro-economic forecasts. This is clearly a role the Scottish Government could ask the SFC to fulfil.”
The Committee report also made the following recommendations:
- All members of the SFC should be appointed by Ministers under the provisions of the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003, with those appointments subject to the consent of the Parliament on the recommendation of the Finance Committee.
- A commentary should be provided twice a year and include the views of the SFC on the economic determinants underpinning the tax revenue forecasts.
- All reports which the SFC produces should be laid before the Scottish Parliament.
- The SFC should have right of access (at any reasonable time) to all Scottish Government and Revenue Scotland information and analytical capacity which it may reasonably require for the performance of its duty.
The proposal for establishing an independent fiscal body in Scotland arises out of the fiscal powers being transferred under the Scotland Act 2012: The land and buildings transactions tax, the landfill tax and the Scottish rate of income tax.
Giving evidence to the Finance Committee on 1 May 2013, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth suggested that in light of Scotland acquiring a set of revenue-raising responsibilities: “My view is that Scotland will require an independent forecasting body that can provide independent assessment to the Government and the Parliament of what might be generated as a consequence of those taxes.”
The Cabinet Secretary also stated his intention that the SFC would be established prior to the implementation of the newly devolved taxes in April 2015.