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by Louise Wilson
08 February 2024
Scottish Government economy strategy ‘lacks political leadership’

The strategy was published in March 2022 | PA/Alamy

Scottish Government economy strategy ‘lacks political leadership’

The Scottish Government’s economic strategy lacks political leadership, Audit Scotland has warned.

A key group to be chaired by the first minister has not been set up, which could prevent the delivery board of the strategy from raising concerns with government.

And there is also said to be a lack of clarity on how different parts of the government are working together on funding priorities, which may hamper decision-making.

Stephen Boyle, Scotland’s auditor general, said: “Collective political leadership remains vital, and the government needs to better understand the cost and affordability of its plans so it can prioritise spending decisions.”

The Scottish Government has committed to a refresh of the strategy to address the recommendations made by the Audit Scotland report.

The short briefing marks almost two years since the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) was published by the Scottish Government.

That set out the ambition to create a wellbeing economy by supporting businesses and creating well-paid jobs, while at the same time driving a reduction in poverty.

Auditors say the government has set up a governance framework for delivery of the strategy but urged ministers to immediately establish the Economic Leadership Group. This ministerial group was promised by the strategy, and is to be chaired by the first minister and attended by local government colleagues from Cosla.

The briefing also says the government is yet to set out how much investment is needed to deliver the strategy.

“This creates a risk to financial management and public accountability. With the current financial challenges, an understanding of cost and affordability will help the Scottish Government to prioritise spending decisions and is critical for transparency, scrutiny and accountability,” it adds.

It also said there is a risk that the objectives are not given the same priority by all directorates of the government and urges the government to improve transparency of decision-making which affects the funding of strategy-related work.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As we approach the strategy’s two-year anniversary, the Scottish Government recognises that much has changed fiscally, politically and internationally.

“In light of this, NSET will be refreshed and updated, addressing the key recommendations of this review by Audit Scotland which includes revisiting governance to ensure the strategy continues to provide robust oversight.”

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