That underspend

Maria Fyfe (Letters, 3 February) is wrong about the SNP’s alleged underspend of “nearly £500,000”. Last month finance secretary John Swinney described precisely what the real underspend was: £145,000, and he covered the technical reasons behind that. For Maria Fyfe’s benefit, I quote the relevant parts of his letter, which was actually his response to Brian Wilson, who had also got it wrong:

“Mr Wilson’s colleagues managed to forget to spend £700 million in one year and left more than £1 billion in a Treasury bank account which could have supported our economy and public services.

“Thankfully the SNP secured the release of that money.

“I can assure Brian Wilson, and your readers, that if the £444m of underspend he ­refers to was all money over which I had control, then every penny of it would be being invested properly to mitigate the impact of ­Westminster cuts and welfare reforms.

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“The £444 million underspend against the annual accounts-based budget, ­reported in the Final Outturn Report and in the media last week, also reflects variances in Annual Managed Expenditure programmes and other technical non-cash accounting budgets – for example depreciation and impairments.

“So such underspends therefore do not reflect a missed opportunity to spend more on public services – much as Mr Wilson and his Labour ­colleagues try to claim otherwise. The reality is that the fiscal underspend the Scottish Government has available from 2013-14 to invest in public services is only 0.5 per cent of our budget, or £145 million.”

Regarding the council tax freeze, councils who agreed to participate were funded from Holyrood funds to make up their shortfall.

I am not an apologist for the SNP; however, some familiarity with the numbers game tempts me into action when appropriate – especially when members of the Labour tribe attempt to manipulate then for their own political advantage, and where they are just plain wrong!

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent