THE Scottish Government should “grasp the nettle” and take politically challenging decisions to rein back public spending and consider outsourcing some services, according to a business group.
The Confederation of British Industry in Scotland (CBI) wants a “bolder approach” to reduce the cost to taxpayers in the 2014-15 budget.
In a submission to Finance Secretary John Swinney, the group suggested ending the protection of health spending and making more use of “external providers” for hospital cleaning, catering and GP services.
University graduates should be asked to pay a contribution to the cost of their education, the Government should sell more assets and ministers should cut the number of councils from 32.
The submission states: “A bolder approach to making savings in devolved public expenditure would free up money for spending on more economically beneficial and growth enhancing areas of government policy.
“It would also negate the need for any further new tax rises. There are plenty of options for reshaping devolved spending, and while some may not be easy politically, now is the time to grasp the nettle.”
The report calls for ministers to consider whether public services could be better spent by private bodies in all areas.
In an accompanying letter to Mr Swinney, CBI director Iain McMillan suggested the economy is showing a return to growth.
“The economy is at a critical turning point and decisions taken this year will help determine the future for Scotland’s economy and its public finances,” he writes.
“Through the measures outlined in this paper we believe Scotland’s economy can be assisted to return to a sustainable growth path with firms more confident about exporting, investing and expanding.
“The overriding challenge to government, parliament and policy makers is clear - channel your collective energies into aiding economic growth and ensure all policies make Scotland an even better place to create wealth and jobs.”