04 March 2021

S5M-24057 Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): As members will be aware, at this point in the proceedings, I am required under the standing orders to decide whether any provision of the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. In my view no provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter and therefore the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.

As we know, there are no amendments at stage 3, so we move straight to the debate on motion S5M-24057, in the name of Gordon Lindhurst, on the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Bill.

… … …

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Let me start by picking up on a few things that have already been said. Daniel Johnson talked about data. Data becomes information only when it has been analysed. In other words, providing data is not an immediate provision of information.

We also heard reference, from the minister in response to a Tory member, to the code of practice for the use of statistics. It is worth saying something about that code of practice because, in effect, the Government is bound by it. That is associated, in part, with the proposals before Parliament today, because the code of practice for the use of statistics is not applicable to the political parties that are in opposition.

The code says:

“By complying with the Code, your organisation will show that: ... It is ethical and honest in using any data ... It respects evidence”


“It communicates accurately, clearly and impartially.”

Those duties are placed on the Government, and the Government is held accountable for obeying them and the ministerial code. No such obligations are placed on Opposition parties if they receive data without information at the same time as the Government. They can immediately comment and are not held to account should they selectively quote favourable data or communicate it in a way that is not accurate, clear and impartial. However, the Government has to take time to ensure it meets those standards. Therefore, the artificial suggestion that this creates a sense of evenness and balance between Government and those who hold it to account is a false distinction that simply does not bare reasonable analysis.

I am interested in statistics; I am a humble mathematician. My wife is also a mathematician, and she has a statistics qualification in addition to that. I always go to her. She tells me—this is a matter of grave concern to me—that, statistically, I shall be on this planet for another 12 to 14 years. That is not very long, so I take a close interest in that statistic and hope that the actuaries and statisticians who produced it are underestimating the length of time that I now have left.

The bill seeks to provide information to Opposition parties. Giving information to Opposition parties is good; I have been in opposition and know how valuable it is. However, in providing information, the bill provides nothing in the way of controls and responsibilities for the recipients of information who are not in government.

That goes to the heart of the principal flaw in taking the approach that is proposed by the committee. I respect the committee’s work and the reason why it has introduced the bill—those are both to be respected and applauded—but I am afraid that it fails the test of creating a level playing field, which is what advocates for the bill suggest that it does. Unfortunately, it does no such thing.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP