By a Newsnet reporter
A Labour MSP has been accused of making false claims against Scottish Government Officials in a row over a report that compared the wealth of an independent Scotland with that of other nations.
Ken Macintosh has refused to accept an official report showing an independent Scotland would be ranked six places higher than the UK, when comparing its GDP per-capita with that of 27 other European nations.
Labour’s finance spokesperson also claimed earlier reports published by the same Government officials had been “written by the SNP press office”.
The accusation by the Labour MSP prompted the Convener of the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson, to write to Mr Macintosh asking him to drop his accusation and to clarify where he believed an independent Scotland would be ranked.
In a letter to the Labour MSP, Mr Gibson wrote: “I wish to take issue regarding your claims reported on the BBC regarding the Scottish Government’s figures showing where an independent Scotland would have been in the Eurostat rankings had its appropriate share of the Extra-Regio been allocated.
“Firstly, you claim that of previous figures on Scotland’s rankings in the OECD: ‘in fact they were written by the SNP press office.’ This is incorrect as this link to the Scottish Government website shows: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0039/00390896.pdf
“In fact they were produced by Scottish Government officials. Would you now accept that your ‘fact’ is not true?
“Secondly, you would appear not to accept the work of Scottish Government officials in terms of the March 2012 Eurostat figures on where Scotland would rank in terms of wealth per head.
“Could you therefore tell me where you believe Scotland would rank on such a table when its appropriate and geographic share of the Extra-Region has been allocated?”
However, in response Mr Macintosh described his previous comments as “gentle mocking” and went on to imply that Government Ministers may have been guilty of “manipulation or misuse” of official statistics.
Mr Macintosh wrote: “I was not sure whether to be baffled or amused by your letter on the subject of Scotland’s supposed rankings in the OECD. The point I was making and which you clearly accept is that Scotland is not ranked by the OECD, these are rankings produced by the SNP. Scottish Government officials have never made these claims before and therefore I believe we can only assume they were instructed to do so by SNP Ministers.
“I am sure you are aware of the level of concern that exists over the level of manipulation or misuse of supposedly official statistics to make party political points. The SNP are sailing pretty close to the wind on this issue and gentle mocking from me is the least you should be prepared to accept.”
Mr Gibson described the contents of the Labour MSP’s letter as bizarre and said:
“Ken’s letter is quite bizarre and suggests a creeping arrogance is developing amongst the anti-independence parties that they don’t have to answer questions about their claims.
“Not only does he make no attempt to say where he thinks an independent Scotland would be placed in the Eurostat league table but he repeats a charge about the work of Scottish Government officials which is provably wrong.”
The Cunninghame North MSP insisted the time had come for anti-independence politicians to start producing facts when challenging figures instead of attacking public servants.
"These official figures show the wealth of Scotland and demolish the credibility of his unsupported attempt to talk down Scotland's economy, and ability to make decisions for ourselves.
"The example of other successful small independent European nations is an overwhelming vote of confidence in the economic case for an independent Scotland.
“And a fundamental question Ken MacIntosh and Labour have to answer is why they want decisions about Scotland’s spending left to a Tory-led Westminster government making austerity cuts which Scotland rejected at the polls?”
The EU member states ranked above Scotland all have populations significantly smaller than the UK’s, and two of them have populations smaller than Scotland:
• Luxembourg - Half a million
• Austria - Eight million
• Ireland - Four and a half million
• Netherlands - Seventeen million
• Scotland – Five million
• UK – Sixty-two million