A proposed Bill has been introduced at the Scottish Parliament to limit pre-release access (PRA) to official statistics.

The convener of Holyrood's Economy Committee argued ministers seeing information up to five days before it is made public "enables them to provide a positive slant before anyone else can respond".

Gordon Lindhurst said statistics should be available "on an equal and not a privileged basis".

He said both the Office for National Statistics and Bank of England have abolished the practice and urged the Scottish Government to follow suit for some statistics.

"It puts ministers, whichever party is in power, in a privileged position - that it allows the figures to be framed in a particular way, or even to be spun," Mr Lindhurst said.

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government, Kate Forbes claimed PRA did not give ministers an advantage but rather allowed them to respond to new information "with depth and with accuracy".

Mr Lindhurst explained the proposed Bill would remove PRA for retail sales figures and GDP statistics - in line with the rest of the UK - and reduce the time period from five days to one for certain other statistics.

He also cited the Royal Statistical Society's evidence to the committee, which said "Scotland is very much an anomaly relative to almost the whole developed world", in relation to PRA.

Ms Forbes insisted the Scottish Government handles data ethically and "continues to put that principle at the forefront of our work".

She said: "One of the first myths I want to dispel is the idea that pre-release access to, for example GDP statistics, gives Scottish ministers a first-mover advantage.

"There is nothing inappropriate about pre-release access to official statistics. "It is in line with legislation, people receive early access if the person responsible for producing the statistics considers it necessary and legitimate.

"We believe that those in authority, or those with responsibility for a policy area that is of national importance, can talk about the new information with depth and with accuracy when they are asked to do so when those statistics are published."

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said her party backed the committee's proposed Bill. "It's clear pre-release access puts the Government in a position to spin the statistics to their best advantage," she said.

"That can cause confusion and undermines trust in the whole system." Green MSP Andy Wightman said successive SNP ministers had "stuck their head in the sand" and refused to deal with the issue.

He added: "The committee's proposal does not even go as far as the recommendations of experts, it doesn't go as far as the committee's recommendations.

"This is such a modest proposal no member, let alone a Government minister, should have any difficulty supporting it if you believe in good governance and transparency."