As a regulator, we want to be as helpful as we can to producers of statistics to enable the release of valuable information, while also setting clear standards of practice. In the pandemic we supported producers by granting exemptions to the Code of Practice for Statistics to enable some statistics to be released at times other than the standard time of 9.30am.
Market sensitive statistics could no longer be released after the usual lock-in briefings, so we agreed for them to be released at 7am. This has meant that the lead statisticians have been able to speak in the media and explain the latest results.
We also enabled some statistics related to COVID-19 to be released later in the day as soon as they could be shared publicly with sufficient quality assurance. It has meant for example that both the Coronavirus infection survey bulletins and the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 weekly report for Scotland are released at noon.
Having a specific time of release has helped ensure consistency in release and grow confidence that official statistics are truly independent of political preferences and interference. The pandemic has brought to light how important timely statistics are, and the huge demand has meant that release timings have had to change so that the statistics remain relevant and useful to the public.
As we look beyond the pandemic, we have been considering whether we should amend the Code of Practice to enable more flexibility for producers but at the same time keep the benefits of consistency and protection against interference. We are grateful to everyone who has shared their views with us in our discovery phase. It has helped us consider a range of issues.
We are pleased to announce that a 12-week consultation will begin on 28 September 2021, ending on 21 December 2021. Our consultation paper will set out some proposals on release approaches that look to maintain the benefits of standard release times but also support some greater flexibility. The Authority will carefully consider the responses before deciding on its preferred release practice.
We encourage you to consider the suggestions and to share your views with us.