Scottish Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary has called for an inquiry into the politicisation of Government statistics after the price of oil approached half the level predicted by the SNP Scottish Government.
The call comes after one of Scotland’s leading economists, Professor Ronald MacDonald of the University of Glasgow, said that the plummeting oil price “calls into considerable question and doubt the many statements made by the SNP on oil revenues in the run up to the referendum vote.”
Professor MacDonald went on to say that given the importance of oil to the Scottish economy people in Scotland “should be given forecasts produced by an independent organisation and the implications of these figures for both Scotland’s internal and external finances.”
The much-criticised Oil Statistical Bulletin, published by John Swinney in March 2013, predicted that Scotland’s public finances could be based on an estimate oil price of $113 a barrel even though this was far outside the level recommended by independent experts at the time.
As of lunchtime today, the price of a barrel of Crude Brent Oil is $59 according to Bloomberg.
Shadow Finance Secretary Jackie Baillie said:
“This isn’t about re-fighting the referendum. The SNP Scottish Government’s wildly inaccurate figures raise serious questions about whether we can trust what they are telling us and whether civil servants came under undue political pressure to over-estimate the oil price for political reasons.
“The economic forecasts published by the Scottish Government are now ludicrously at odds with the real world. John Swinney has already had to return to the Scottish Parliament once to revise down his oil numbers. He should come back to Parliament to explain himself again.
“In Scotland we are about to see a big transfer of financial and tax powers to the Government in Edinburgh. It is essential that we have confidence that the economic statistics published by the Scottish Government are based on sound analysis and not political spin.
“We need an inquiry into how these statistics were prepared and full disclosure of all internal government documents relating to the publication of the Oil and Gas Analytical Bulletins