MSPs will today take the highly unusual step of introducing their own Bill at Holyrood to stop Scottish ministers getting early sight of economic statistics and ‘weaponising’ them.

The Scottish Parliament’s economy committee wants to end privileged “pre-release access” for ministers and special advisers, thereby aligning the Scottish system with the UK one.

At present, Scottish ministers can see Scottish economic growth and retail sales index data up to five days before they are made public.

READ MORE: Scotland's economy is on the brink of a recession 

In June, the committee said by a majority - with all SNP MSPs opposed - that early access should end entirely for both data sets, and access to other economic data be cut to one day.

The intention is to stop ministers working up “spin” operations to put the most positive gloss on potentially embarrassing numbers, and so frame their reporting in the media.

The practice of early access to data for UK Government ministers has not been used by either the Bank of England or the Office for National Statistics since 2017.

The economy committee will today propose a Bill at Holyrood to follow suit.

The move is supported by all opposition parties in Holyrood, and so should become law.

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “For too long SNP ministers have got away with trying to bend statistics to suit their narrow political agenda.

“The excellent work of the country’s leading statisticians is being weaponised by the SNP before they have even published.

“This Bill will seek to put a stop to that and bring the SNP government into line with best practice on statistical publications around the UK.

“The fact that the SNP was the only party not supporting the Bill in Committee tells its own story.”

Green Andy Wightman MSP said: “The committee has taken evidence from a series of experts who expressed their concern about the privileged access to statistics that Scottish Ministers continue to enjoy.

READ MORE: David Cameron secretly asked the Queen to back the Union in the 2014 Scottish independence campaign 

"This flies in the face of statistical best practice. In light of the Government’s intransigence on the issue, the Committee chose to bring forward proposals for legislation to increase transparency and public trust in official statistics.”

A Scottish LibDem spokesperson added: “Too often it seems that the government has just used the extra time to find some spin to put on the numbers.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Pre-release access is consistent with the Code of Practice for Statistics which states that it should be in line with the rules and principles set out in legislation. Indeed, UK Government Departments provide pre-release access to their statistics in a similar way to the Scottish Government.

“Pre-release access is a matter for the Chief Statistician and the independence of his role is crucial. Any proposal to curtail access would cut across his ability to ensure the key figures about Scotland are properly communicated and understood.”