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by Louise Wilson
25 January 2023
Finance committee criticises lack of government financial planning

The committee said it "would like to see evidence that the government is suitably focused on striking the right balance"

Finance committee criticises lack of government financial planning

The Scottish Government may be failing on long-term financial planning which would ensure fiscal sustainability, Holyrood’s finance committee has warned.

There is also a lack of information on plans for public service reform which is preventing scrutiny, MSPs said.

In a new report, published ahead of a debate on Thursday afternoon, the committee acknowledged the Scottish Government was “firefighting on a number of fronts”.

But it also said strategic long-term planning was vital in delivering reform and social security commitments.

Committee convener Kenneth Gibson said that while the government was understandably focused on the cost-of-living crisis and the impacts of rising inflation, more must be done to address long-term challenges.

He said: “We would like to see evidence that the government is suitably focused on striking the right balance between responding to the immediate financial pressures and addressing long-term fiscal challenges.

“On the basis of evidence we’ve heard, the committee wants to see more strategic long-term financial planning from the Scottish Government to ensure future fiscal sustainability.”

It follows calls from Audit Scotland in the autumn that public service reform was “now urgent”.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said that for Scotland’s public services to remain sustainable financially, “there is now an urgent case for the reform of how services are delivered”.

The report says the committee is “disappointed” that the government has yet to publish initial outcomes or plans for its reform programme.

It adds: “If the Scottish Government has decided to no longer publish its plans and initial outcomes, we would have expected it to have announced and explained this decision, to enable transparency and scrutiny. We are further concerned that there may be no overarching framework and strategy in place with overall aims, costs and savings anticipated from reform. We urge clarity on this matter.”

MSPs also called for clarity on plans to reduce staff headcounts from pre-pandemic levels – namely by how much and over what timescale.

The report is part of the parliament’s annual scrutiny of the budget.

It will lead a debate on the report this week, before the Budget Bill stage one debate next Thursday.

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