'Three wise men' aiming to balance Scots budgets are named

THE three "wise men" tasked with delivering radical proposals to reshape public spending have been named.

Crawford Beveridge, a former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, will chair a panel tasked with suggesting savings and reconsidering how public services are delivered.

He will be joined by Sir Neil McIntosh, former chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Regional Council and Strathclyde Regional Council, and Robert Wilson, a partner in Deloitte Consulting, based in Edinburgh.

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The panel was given a wide remit, as part of this year's budget negotiations, to look at how public services can be delivered more cheaply as budgets become tighter in the years to come. The SNP agreed to set it up to get Conservative support for the budget.

The Tories envisaged a board similar to one in Ireland that came up with recommendations on slashing public spending.

Welcoming the appointments, Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said: "The work of this group will be crucial in highlighting the options for reducing spending in Scotland."

However, questions remain over whether the panel will have enough time to carry out a thorough review, or if politicians will have the stomach for severe cuts or ideas such as letting the private sector run public services.

The recent trend by SNP ministers has been to exclude the private sector from public services particularly in hospitals, GP surgeries and prisons.

Finance secretary John Swinney said: "All three panel members will bring a wealth of public and private sector expertise to the Independent Budget Review.

"I thank them all for agreeing to give up their time to conduct the review which will consider the implications of forecasts of reductions in public spending in Scotland in the short and medium term."