MSPs back motion for better scrutiny of Government budget

The motion to give MSPs greater scutiny of Holyrood budgets was lodged by Scottish Greens co-convener, Patrick Harvie. Picture: JP
The motion to give MSPs greater scutiny of Holyrood budgets was lodged by Scottish Greens co-convener, Patrick Harvie. Picture: JP
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The Scottish Government is facing calls to give Holyrood a better chance to scrutinise its budget.

Opposition MSPs have backed a motion urging ministers to present “scenario plans” before the end of the Scottish Parliament’s October recess.

The motion, lodged by Greens finance spokesman Patrick Harvie ahead of a Finance Committee debate on Tuesday, comes amid concerns MSPs will not have enough time to consider the Government’s budget.

The draft budget is normally published in September but is being delayed until December.

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Mr Harvie’s motion has the support of 64 opposition MSPs, meaning a majority of Parliament has backed the call for the Government to act.

The Finance Committee recently wrote to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, stating his decision not to publish budget scenario plans was unacceptable, Mr Harvie said.

Without such plans it is likely that Holyrood committees will only have two meetings to try to examine the draft 2017/18 budget, listen to the views of witnesses and hold the Government to account, he added.

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“The Finance Committee and all opposition parties understand the Government’s difficulty as it waits for the UK’s autumn budget statement and the Chancellor’s ‘fiscal reset’,” Mr Harvie said.

“We have gone to great lengths to give the Government other options, including publishing scenario plans.

“We were pleased at Derek Mackay’s commitment to do that, and the reversal of that position is clearly unacceptable.”

He added: “The public expects MSPs to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s spending plans.

“If ministers stick to their timetable of only publishing a draft budget just before Christmas, we will be prevented from serving the public properly.

“MSPs on the Finance Committee and across the Chamber are clear that for parliamentary scrutiny to be meaningful we need more opportunity to question the Government’s budget priorities.”

Scottish Labour’s business manager James Kelly said: “The SNP needs to show some humility and accept that their plan to avoid budget scrutiny is unacceptable and now untenable.

“This will be the most important budget delivered by the most powerful Scottish Parliament to date.

“It needs as much scrutiny as possible but so far the SNP has not been willing to offer even ballpark figures. That isn’t good enough.”

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