MSPs recommend ending pre-release access to stats in Scotland

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Pre-release access to market-sensitive government statistics should end, according to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee.

The call was made in the Committee’s report on economic data, How to Make Data Count: Improving The Quality and Coverage Of Our Economic Statistics. It follows an inquiry to which the RSS contributed evidence, both in writing and in person (represented by Martin Weale, pictured).

Ending pre-release access is a central part of our Data Manifesto and was a key recommendation in our evidence to the committee. The newly published report acknowledges our concerns and agrees that the current Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008, should be revised, saying: 'In light of strong encouragement in favour of ending pre-release from a number of key witnesses to our inquiry, we believe that pre-release access to economic statistics which are market sensitive - including Scottish GDP, Retail Sales index,   Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (QNAS) and Government Expenditure and Revenues (GERS) - should end.'

The RSS is delighted that the Scottish Parliament's select committee have made this recommendation but hopes that our evidence supports further action to repeal the Order for all official statistics – not just market sensitive releases. This is the policy that the UK Statistics Authority has taken forward for all ONS statistical releases since July 2017, when it scrapped pre-release access following a sustained RSS campaign.

The report also cites our Data Manifesto call to ‘skill up the nation’ for the digital and data economy and asks the Scottish Government ‘to consider how it could further encourage or even champion a better awareness of economic statistics among policy makers and the media and to look at ways of improving public understanding’.

Another call in our Data Manifesto, which asks for official statistics to be at the heart of policy-making, and for governments 'to take evidence more seriously in policy formation and evaluation' was acknowledged by the Committee.

Stephen Penneck, who chairs the RSS National Statistics Advisory Committee, has welcomed the report, saying: ‘We’re very pleased that the Committee has taken on board our evidence and recommended the need to end pre-release access to market-sensitive statistics. We now urge the Scottish Government to accept not only this, but the need to end pre-release access to all Scottish official statistics in order to increase public trust.’

Pre-release access to statistics