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Bill to give legal force to independent scrutiny of SG forecasts.
A bill giving the Scottish Fiscal Commission (the Commission) a permanent basis in statute and safeguarding its independence has been published in parliament today.
The Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill – a Programme for Government commitment – will ensure the group of economic experts is given a statutory role, separate from government, in scrutinising the Scottish Government's tax and borrowing forecasts.
Set up in 2014 ahead of the introduction of Scotland's first new taxes for 300 years, the Commission was initially set up to scrutinise the government's devolved tax forecasts and already plays an important role in Scotland's fiscal framework.
The legislation published today will mean its rights and responsibilities are permanently enshrined in law. It will also provide a legislative basis to expand the Commission's scope as further fiscal powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:
"The Scottish Fiscal Commission already plays an important role in providing independent scrutiny of the Scottish Government's budget forecasts of devolved tax income. The Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill – a Programme for Government commitment – puts the Commission on a statutory footing, ensuring its permanence, transparency and accountability and supporting delivery of the First Minister's commitment to lead the most open and accessible government that Scotland has ever had.
"It's paramount to the effectiveness and credibility of the Commission that it is structurally, operationally and visibly independent and the Bill published today will deliver that. Our policy proposals have been informed by responses to our recent consultation as well as international best practice, including the work of the OECD and the International Monetary Fund.
"At present, the commission scrutinises our forecasts for income from the new Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and the Scottish Landfill Tax, which went live on April 1st this year.
"But it is important to note that the Smith Commission recommended devolving various other fiscal powers and, as those powers come to the Scottish Parliament, we want the Commission's remit to expand to reflect these new powers.
"The Scottish Fiscal Commission Bill published today provides a basis for that.
"This bill also provides the Commission with a role in scrutinising the Scottish Government's future borrowing projections – from financial year 2015-16, we have the capacity to undertake limited capital borrowing under the Scotland Act 2012.
"The power to borrow to fund capital will be hugely beneficial to the Scottish economy. Capital infrastructure, as we can already see, brings much-needed jobs and investment.
"Indeed, earlier today I visited the new Queensferry Crossing, which is set to open late next year with a saving of £195 million from its budget of £1.35 - £1.45 billion. Currently an average of 1,266 people are directly employed on the project and Scottish firms have been awarded subcontracts or supply orders worth around £246 million out of a total of about £549 million.
"The establishment of the Scottish Fiscal Commission as a statutory body is another important milestone on the journey to enhance Scotland's fiscal powers. It plays a key role in supporting the exercise of the devolved tax powers the Scottish Parliament already has and this bill creates a basis for the Commission to expand its functions over time, alongside the expansion of the Parliament's fiscal powers."
The independent Scottish Fiscal Commission was established to review government forecasts of receipts from devolved taxes. Expert commissioners examine Scottish Government tax revenue forecasts for the two devolved Scottish taxes, which transferred to Scotland in April 2015 under powers in the Scotland Act 2012: Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax. The Commission also has a role in scrutinising the economic factors that underpin forecast receipts from non-domestic rates.
The Scottish Government consulted on legislative proposals for the Scottish Fiscal Commission, including a draft Bill, between March and June 2015. Consultation responses are published at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/09/2406.
More information about the non-statutory Commission is available at http://www.fiscal.scot/.