‘Difficult choices’ for Scottish Government to balance books, MSPs say
The Scottish Government faces “difficult choices” in balancing the financial books sustainably, a parliament committee has said.
MSPs have urged the government to be transparent about its priorities, funding and timescales, as well as potential impact on service delivery, when it sets out its budget next month.
The Finance Committee said there needed to be “an open and honest debate with the public about how services and priorities are funded, including the role of taxation”.
Its pre-budget scrutiny report also concluded the UK Government should “recognise the inflationary impacts on the Scottish block grant”.
Convener Kenneth Gibson said: “Our committee accepts that the Scottish Government faces difficult choices in balancing its approaches to spending and taxation – especially if it’s to maintain financial sustainability and support households and businesses through the cost-of-living crisis.”
On the wider UK context, he added: “It is now time for the UK Government to concentrate on putting in place measures to bring more stability to the UK economy.”
John Swinney – covering for Kate Forbes while she is on maternity leave – will set out the budget for the next financial year in December.
MSPs will then have a chance to scrutinise the budget in the form of a bill early in the new year.
Since the agreement between the SNP and Greens gives the government a minority, few changes are likely to be made to the initial plan.
The Finance Committee has called for more clarity on the impact of economic pressures on net zero programmes, as well as preventative measures which could save money in the long-term.
Regarding cuts to be made to public sector staffing to pay in part for the new pay deal, MSPs said the government must approach this in a “systematic, transparent, and coordinated way”.
The report also recognised continuing pressure on local government finances and urged the government to consider giving greater flexibility to them to respond to local priorities.
It comes after Swinney yesterday confirmed further budget cuts to plug a blackhole in government finances caused by inflation and public sector pay deals.