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First Minister Humza Yousaf: My government does not fear scrutiny

The First Minister was addressing the Scottish Parliament’s convener’s group | SPTV

First Minister Humza Yousaf: My government does not fear scrutiny

The Scottish Government is “making difficulties for itself” by continuing to pursue so-called framework bills, the first minister has been told.

Holyrood’s finance committee convener Kenneth Gibson has said his committee had become “increasingly concerned” about inaccurate cost estimates associated with such bills.

He said this not only undermined scrutiny by the parliament’s committees, but also “increases the likelihood of financial risk, overspend, and inefficiency”.

While Humza Yousaf accepted there were “challenges” around scrutiny for framework bills – which set out broad policy approaches and leave details to secondary legislation – he denied their use was becoming the norm.

The first minister was addressing the Scottish Parliament’s convener’s group on the first anniversary of becoming SNP leader. The group puts questions to the first minister twice a year.

Concerns were raised about the nature of several pieces of legislation currently before parliament, with conveners pointing to problems with scrutiny and finances.

Gibson said: “The government is just making difficulties for itself, quite frankly. The National Care Service Bill is clearly a case in point.

“What people want to know is what this bill is actually going to deliver at the earliest stage possible – that has to be in primary legislation, not something that may have bells and whistles upon it. And I don’t agree that we’re in a situation whereby it allows the delivery of legislation at an earliest possible date, because that legislation’s not now programmed until 2028/29.

“Clearly the framework bill is not allowing effective scrutiny and it’s not actual enabling bills to come forward and be implemented.”

Other committee conveners also raised similar issues with the Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill and the Children (Care and Justice) Bill.

On the National Care Service Bill specifically, Yousaf said Gibson’s critique relating to the financial memorandum was “fair”, but the principles of it were “widely understood”.

He said the use of framework bills was to ensure flexibility and insisted they are “only used as a last resort and where it is appropriable for it to be the case”.

Adding his government did not “fear scrutiny”, he said: “We will always aim and endeavour to give the best possible estimate around what any proposed legislation may well cost and the implications of that legislation.”

The exchange follows a row between the Finance Committee and ministers over the latter’s failure to provide updated costings of the planned National Care Service.

That bill proceeded to stage two earlier this month, despite an attempt by Labour to stop it due to concerns about a lack of scrutiny.

Also during the session of the conveners group, Yousaf was asked about proper resourcing for Police Scotland ahead of the new hate crime laws coming into effect next week.

The first minister said there had been a “robust package of guidance and training” given to officers, with a particular focus on ensuring freedom of expression.

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