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Agenda

The pro-No blogger Kevin Hague has succeeded in signficantly discomfiting the pro-Yes Business for Scotland caucus by pointing out that none of its members is involved in business activities with significant trade links to the rest of the UK.

While this, as he acknowledges, does not diminish BFS's right to speak out on independence issues, it does, he suggests, curtail its claims to have a truely representative membership, given that 37% of Scottish businesses do trade with England and the world beyond.

Hague and his business partner, Jim McFarlane, run M8 Group, comprising ecommerce retailers Greenfingers.com and Petplanet.co.uk. The two firms sell garden furniture and pet products, employing about 120 people in Livingston. But Hague's "chokka blog", in which he forensically examines the credentials of BFS members and their companies, suggests the relentless and systematic digging of the old-school investigative hack.

BFS does not accept his protestations that he is "not disparaging the professional credentials of any of these people; I'm just trying to assess the extent to which they are representative of Scottish business". One member told Agenda that the blog's analysis amounted to "snide asides, wee digs and personal attacks". It's all in the eye of the beholder, of course.

Former auditor general and one of Scotland's undisputed fonts of wisdom and good sense, Robert Black, has featured in these pages in the past talking about the need for rigorous, disinterested examination of Scotland's budgetary priorities. There seemed to be little official appetite for an accountability-enforcing body, so his proposals, as outlined in the Sunday Herald, were batted aside.

It is therefore excellent to see that Black is back, as chairman of a new economic think tank, Fiscal Studies Scotland, which is designed to provide "objective, independent, briefings and reports on Scotland's public finances and the performance of the public sector".

The body has an impressive line-up, including Professor Richard Harris, Professor Gavin McCrone, Lorna Jack and Jane Ryder. The advisory board is chaired by Professor Sir John Arbuthnott and the executive directors are Jo Armstrong, and John McLaren. This all-star cast already promises some refreshingly impartial rigour to Scottish debates.

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