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by Margaret Taylor
06 June 2024
Labour claims the SNP has 'wasted £5bn' since taking power at Holyrood

Deputy Labour leader Jackie Baillie was filling in for leader Anas Sarwar at FMQs | Alamy

Labour claims the SNP has 'wasted £5bn' since taking power at Holyrood

Scottish Labour has claimed the SNP has “wasted £5bn” since taking office in 2007, with the party’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie saying the government has adopted an “unforgiveable” attitude to the way it spends taxpayers’ money.

During First Minister’s Questions, which saw Baillie face off against Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes due to the parties’ respective leaders attending D-Day events, the Labour deputy pointed to a recent news report that suggested the Scottish Government is set to hand back over £450m of unspent EU funds.

A report in The Sunday Times said that Scotland is expected to return 28 per cent of the European structural and investment funding received in the past six years, with Wales on course to return nine per cent of its allocation, England six per cent and Northern Ireland two per cent. The money, which must be match funded at a domestic level, was allocated for the 2014-20 period. Although the UK has left the EU, under the terms of the funding agreement devolved nations could access the cash up until the end of 2023.

Baillie said it was “simply a scandal” that the money, which the EU distributes to reduce economic inequalities across member states, had not been spent on “crucial economic and anti-poverty projects across Scotland” and added that Labour party analysis had uncovered a further £5bn of waste since the SNP came to power in 2007.

“That includes agency spend costing the NHS over £1.6bn, delayed discharge costing the NHS over £1.3bn, ferries now £330m over budget,” she said.

“People are tired of the chaos, tired of the sleaze, and tired with SNP politicians not treating Scottish taxpayers’ money with respect.

“Failing to use £450m pounds isn’t treating the taxpayer with respect, wasting £5bn pounds of public money isn’t treating the taxpayer with respect, and defending Michael Matheson and his £11,000 pound iPad bill isn’t treating the taxpayer with respect.”

In response, Forbes pointed to a report from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) that “could not find evidence for the £450m claim” and added that “final expenditure figures will not be known until the programme formally closes in 2025”.

“To have spent all the money a year in advance, I think, would raise questions itself,” she said, adding that the government does “not expect the final figures to be markedly different from elsewhere in the UK, or indeed from previous programmes”.

“Our commitment is to spend as much of the money as possible and of course the irony of the question is that the Labour Party have no intention of ever returning Scotland to Europe, and therefore depriving us of European funding indefinitely,” she said.

In its analysis Spice said it could not “replicate the exact figures quoted in the media” but added that that is “likely to reflect the many different ways in which the figures could be calculated at different points in time”.

It added that European Commission data shows the value of the Scottish funding had reduced from €941m to €783.4m between 2014 and 2020 and that the Scottish Government “has confirmed to Spice that the reduction in the overall value of the programme of €157.6m is as a result of expenditure targets not being met”.

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