Calls for former Labour advisor to apologise after ‘shameful’ attacks on Civil Servants

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By G.A.Ponsonby

An SNP MSP has called on a former Labour party advisor to apologise after he described official Scottish government reports as “misinformation” and an “an insult to Scottish citizens”.

The attack on politically neutral civil servants by Professor Arthur Midwinter, who was also a Labour councillor for several years, has caused outrage with SNP Linda Fabiani saying he should be “ashamed of himself”.

Calling Mr Midwinter’s article in the Scotsman newspaper “a partisan attack” the East Kilbride MSP said the academic should issue an immediate apology.  Ms Fabiani also called on the Labour party to disassociate themselves from the attack on professional civil servants.

“Arthur Midwinter is a former Labour Party adviser, and his article is a partisan attack on the Scottish Government.” she said, and added:

“He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for making unsubstantiated allegations against professional civil servants that have no basis in fact, and have been shown to be false.

“He should apologise, and the Labour Party should disassociate themselves from his ill-judged remarks.   It is precisely this sort of negative nonsense that people are sick of reading about, and helps explain why Labour are at a record low of 23 per cent in Scotland in the polls.”

According to the Scotsman newspaper, Professor Midwinter claimed that official government reports were of a poorer standard than when Labour were in power.

He also alleged that official documents were part of a “misinformation campaign on both the impact of independence or devolution-max” that were “an insult to Scottish citizens”.

The academic, a former advisor to disgraced former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, said that reports often: “present unsubstantiated assertions as matters of fact, or make selective use of research which fits with their predisposition, whilst ignoring critical work”.

Mr Midwinter also attacked First Minister Alex Salmond accusing him of making “implausible” claims and accused other Scottish Government Ministers of spreading “misinformation” about the Calman report.

He also accused Ministers of overstating Scotland’s fiscal position to make it appear Scotland was in fiscal surplus, when said Midwinter, Scotland was in the red.

However a spokesman for Finance Secretary John Swinney said the GERS report, showing Scotland in surplus, was prepared without interference from politicians and carried an official National Statistics kitemark.

Dismissing the academic he said: “These claims, from a former Labour adviser, couldn’t be more wrong.

“Scotland’s budget position is a key argument in favour of independence, and one reason why we are confident of success in the referendum.  Year after year, Scotland is in a stronger financial position that the UK as a whole – Scotland contributes more to the UK Exchequer than we receive in public spending.”

He added: “On the latest figures, Scotland generated 9.4 per cent of UK tax with 8.4 per cent of the population – the equivalent of £1,000 extra for every man, woman and child in Scotland.

“There is now agreement that Scotland is in a far stronger position than the UK in terms of our fiscal position.

“On that sound basis, Scotland would responsibly manage the nation’s finances and assets under independence – and would be the sixth richest country in the OECD in terms of GDP per head.”

Midwinter attacks

These attacks by Professor Midwinter are merely the latest in a long line of controversial assertions made by the academic and go back at least to 2005 when he claimed the SNP’s company-tax plans would create a £10 billion deficit.

In February 2007, prior to the Holyrood election, the academic claimed that if independent, Scotland would suffer a massive £4.5 billion black hole.

In that same year, shortly after being appointed advisor to Wendy Alexander’s team, he claimed that the freeze on local council tax would lead to local authorities losing £420 million in funding over three years.  Midwinter also claimed that the cut in business rates would see the total loss rise to £1.3 billion.

Midwinter described the SNP as “lacking the fiscal competence necessary for governing” and poured scorn on their plans for 1.5% in efficiency savings saying “No British government has delivered 1% per annum efficiency savings over a sustained period – not even the Thatcher government of the 1980s.” – In fact in 2008-9 the new SNP government’s Efficient Government programme delivered savings of £839 million (3.1%).

In August 2007, professor Midwinter claimed that the new SNP Government’s financial plans were unravelling and the then new administration was facing a £2 billion black hole.