The Scottish Fiscal Commission should be given the role of producing the official forecasts for the devolved taxes according to a report published today (5 January) on the draft Bill to give the Commission a basis in statute.
Whilst the Bill proposes that it should be the Scottish Government that produces the forecasts, the Committee’s view is the critical issue in relation to forecasting is the credibility of the Commission as an independent body. The Committee believes that its independence would be enhanced by it producing the official forecasts.
The Committee has also called for a substantial widening of the Commission’s role to include assessing how well the Scottish Government performs against its fiscal rules and an assessment of the long-term sustainability of the public finances. The Committee believes there is currently a lack of institutional capacity within Scotland providing independent scrutiny of the public finances and the Commission provides a substantial opportunity to fill that gap.
Committee Convener, Kenneth Gibson MSP, said:
"The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Commission on a statutory basis and believes it has an important role in providing independent scrutiny of the public finances in Scotland. However, we are strongly of the view that not only should the Scottish Fiscal Commission be independent, but it is vital that it is perceived to be independent. That is why we are calling for the Bill to be amended to strengthen the Commission’s role and to give it responsibility for producing the official forecasts.
“We’re also calling for amendments to give the Commission a much wider role. We believe it should assess the Scottish Government’s adherence to its fiscal rules and assess the long-term sustainability of the public finances. This will further strengthen the independent scrutiny role of the Commission and reflects the view of many witnesses who have appeared before the Committee.”
The draft legislation currently before Parliament will give the Commission a basis in statute. The Commission has been operating on a non-statutory basis since June 2014.
To date, the Commission’s work has focussed on scrutinising Scottish Government forecasts of receipts for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, the Scottish Landfill Tax and business rates.
The Finance Committee has been examining the general principles of the Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill at stage one.