A full review of the Scottish Government’s spending should be carried out to identify unspent money, wasted spending and to increase transparency around the Budget, Scottish Labour has said.
The party’s finance spokesman, Daniel Johnson, has called for a comprehensive spending review as part of the Budget process, with “line by line” evidence of where public money is being spent.
Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, is due to announce the proposed Budget on Thursday and Mr Johnson said knowing where all the money goes would help to “make sure every penny is spent wisely”.
The Scottish Government has never undertaken a comprehensive spending review despite them being carried out by the Treasury on UK Government spending approximately every three years.
Mr Johnson argued that a spending review would allow the Government to understand where money was being spent successfully and where spending had failed to deliver its intended aims.
The Government should also be able to provide estimates of what it expected to spend in the following two years, something he suggested would give clarity and stability to public budgets such as those of councils and the police.
Mr Johnson said: “After 14 years, the gap between the SNP’s rhetoric and reality on investing in Scotland’s future is eye-watering.
“To jumpstart a meaningful recovery from the pandemic and invest in an ambitious future, we’ve got to make sure every penny is spent wisely.
“The SNP’s broken financial promises have smothered Scotland’s potential for too long. We need an ambitious Budget with clear priorities for Scotland’s recovery.
“We need a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve – and if it’s working.
“Transparency and efficiency must be at the heart of our economic recovery. The days of short-term thinking must end.
“That’s why, as we approach this Budget, Labour will be focused on schemes that can unlock Scotland’s potential and get (us) back on the road to recovery.”
Mr Johnson also said the Scottish Government would have a “pretty substantial envelope” of additional funding, with at least £3.9 billion extra expected to be available from Barnett consequentials as a result of UK Government spending decisions.
Suggesting that some of the additional money should be given to councils to tackle the problems of rubbish in the streets and potholes in the roads, Mr Johnson added: “I think the way (the Scottish Government) has treated local government since the SNP came to office has left local government in an invidious position.
“Frankly, they’ve left our roads in a dreadful state and rubbish uncollected, and I think there needs to be some pretty urgent action to put those things right.”
He added: “I think Kate Forbes has two options. She can look across her Budget lines from last year and increment them up a bit, giving in to her Cabinet colleagues.
“Or she can look at the Budget and the envelope of £3.9 billion of cash that is there from the (UK) comprehensive spending review and say ‘what can we do, what interventions can we make to get the recovery back on track and build the resilience that we need?’.”