Last month, MSPs in the Scottish parliament voted in favour of a proposed bill to end ‘pre-release access’ (PRA) that ministers and officials currently have to key economic data.
The bill, proposed by the majority of MSPs on the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee back in June, includes proposals to remove PRA from GDP and retail sales statistics, and to reduce the five-day limit - currently applied to other categories of statistics - to just one day. The UK Statistics Authority chair, Sir David Norgrove, backed its plans in a letter to the committee’s convener, Gordon Lindhurst.
The RSS has, along with the UK Statistics Authority, long campaigned for an end to the practice of PRA. In May 2017, we wrote an open letter to The Times with 114 signatories calling it an ‘outdated and unnecessary practice [...] detrimental to public trust in official statistics’. We welcomed the announcement in 2017, by the then National Statistician John Pullinger, that PRA would cease for all statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics.
RSS executive director Hetan Shah said that while the Scottish bill is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough. Speaking to PublicTechnology.net and Holyrood he said: ‘Research shows the majority of the public supports everyone seeing statistics at the same time. Politicians having early access to statistics encourages spin. Scotland is now far out of line with good practice.’
The bill is expected to be introduced into the Scottish parliament next year.