Scotland politics

Scottish independence: John Swinney announces fiscal commission

Scotland's future tax income will be scrutinised by a new independent body set up by the Scottish government.

The Scottish Fiscal Commission will mainly work on landfill tax and the new land and buildings tax, Finance Secretary John Swinney said.

Mr Swinney told a Holyrood committee that the commission will made up of three part-time, unpaid experts.

Nominations will be put forward for endorsement by MSPs before the new body begins its work this summer.

Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament's finance committee that the commission would be "operationally independent from the Scottish government".

The body, which will report to the Scottish Parliament, would scrutinise the tax powers devolved under the Scotland Act 2012.

'Independent minds'

"Commission members will bring independent minds and strong economic and analytical skills to bear on the Scottish government's tax forecasts," Mr Swinney said.

"In order to protect the independence of the commission, I will make appointments for a single term of office of between three and five years.

"This will allow for rotation for the commission in line with good governance practice while managing the retention and transfer of skills and experience."

Members would be unpaid but expenses will be met and the body will have a modest budget for "analytical and other necessary work", the finance secretary said.

Mr Swinney suggested the unpaid status of the roles could be reviewed once the commission was given a statutory basis. He said the earliest that legislation could be introduced would be the final year of the Scottish Parliament's current term, in 2015-16.

'Disappointment'

Under independence, the body would be given a wider remit, akin to the UK Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Some committee members questioned whether the commission had a strong enough foundation under existing arrangements.

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm said: "It would be true to say there is a little bit of disappointment in the committee that you haven't gone quite as far as we had suggested.

"I expect there's even more disappointment among economists."

MSPs on the finance committee had previously given their backing for an independent fiscal commission for Scotland.

Committee convener and SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said the new body must be "independent, transparent and non-partisan".

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