The Finance Committee has called on the Scottish Government to respond to the view that the primary aim of its Draft Budget for 2011-12 is in fact the protection of public services, rather than its stated core purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.
The request for such a response is published today as part of the Finance Committee’s report on the Scottish Government’s 2011-12 Draft Budget. The committee report assesses how the major strategic and cross-cutting proposals in the draft budget and specific portfolio decisions contribute to the Government’s stated purpose and strategic priorities.
The committee heard evidence from a number of public finance experts that the Government’s spending priorities within the budget indicated that the protection of services had been given priority over economic growth. The committee also invites the Government to explain why its strategic priorities have changed since the previous budget, and whether it has carried out an assessment of the impact of its previous priorities on increasing sustainable economic growth.
Committee Convener, Andrew Welsh MSP said:
“The Finance Committee recognises in its report that this is the most difficult budget since devolution, and that producing a balanced budget in these circumstances will be a highly significant challenge for both the Government and the Parliament.
“In our report, we have scrutinised the Draft Budget by assessing the extent to which the Government’s priorities contribute to its core purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. We have asked the Government to respond to the view of a number of witnesses that the Government’s priority is the protection of public services and not economic growth.”
The committee made further recommendations including:
- asking the Government to indicate how many public sector jobs will be lost as a consequence of the draft budget;
- inviting the Government to be more transparent in explaining how the continued provision of universal services, such as concessionary travel and free prescription charges, will have a long-term impact on other aspects of the budget given demographic and other cost pressures;
- inviting the Government to respond in detail to the criticism that, in ring-fencing health spending, the draft budget gives priority to the protection of public services rather than the government’s purpose.
The Parliament will debate the findings of the committee’s report during the Stage 1 debate on the Budget Bill, scheduled for Wednesday 26 January.
The Scottish Government’s Draft Budget sets out its spending plans for 2011-12, which total £33.6 billion. The Finance Committee is responsible for the overall scrutiny of the Draft Budget and for co-ordinating responses from the Parliament’s subject committees on the spending plans for their respective portfolios.