Date set for Scottish Budget amid ongoing ‘volatility’

The draft Scottish Budget is set to be published on December 15, it has been confirmed.

But Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government may need to revisit its plans given the ongoing “uncertainty and volatility” down south.

It comes after Holyrood’s finance and public administration committee urged Mr Swinney, the acting Finance Secretary, to publish his spending plans on that date.

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Mr Swinney previously said the Government would need to alert the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) on Thursday of its plans to hold the budget in the second week of December.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
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The SFC requires 10 weeks of notice of a draft budget – which is usually published in December before being passed by Holyrood early in the new year.

An Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimate is due to be released on November 23, which will provide more information on funding to the Scottish Government.

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There is also due to be a statement from the UK Government on spending in the coming weeks, which could impact devolved areas and the 2023/24 budget.

In a letter to the finance committee, Mr Swinney said he was “content to support a joint proposal that the Scottish Budget be published on December 15”.

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He said: “It is crucial for us to have a clear plan in place for Scotland’s Budget to provide certainty and reassurance, and collectively agreeing a date is welcome.

“As it is becoming less clear if the UK Government will publish the OBR forecasts earlier than the originally announced date of 23 November, I must stress that this risks creating an exceptionally challenging timeframe in which to deliver the Scottish Budget.

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“In these uncertain times, we will need to be ready to adapt flexibly and prudently to ensure that Scotland’s interests are best protected.

“As you will be aware, the SFC requires a minimum of 10 weeks to prepare for its forecasts and given the uncertainty and volatility of UK Government’s plans, we may need to revisit our plans if there are implications for this 10-week period.”

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In a letter on Wednesday, the finance committee’s deputy convener Daniel Johnson said: “The committee understands the importance of ensuring proper time for both the SFC to complete its analysis for its Economic and Fiscal Forecasts and for the Scottish Government to be able to take informed decisions on budget proposals.

“We also consider that it is vital that we seek to protect time to achieve effective and meaningful parliamentary scrutiny of the final Scottish budget 2023/24 document once published.

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“I am confident a balance can be struck to deliver the requirements of Government, Parliament and the SFC.

“Given this, the committee considers that the Scottish budget 2023/24 document should be published on December 15, 2022, with the committee then reporting its views as soon as possible after January 24.

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“The committee is aware that the deadline for notifying the SFC of this publication date is Thursday, October 6, and I am therefore writing to you now to enable that notification to take place this week.”

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