By Bill Heaney
The SNP Government have been told there is ‘no one else to blame’ but themselves after Audit Scotland figures revealed a record £2 billion underspend in their most recent annual budget.
Auditor General Stephen Boyle has called for greater financial transparency from ministers after revealing that they spent £49.2 billion as against a budget of £51.2 billion in 2021-22.
And, responding to the Audit Scotland figures, the Scottish Conservatives have called on them to stop blaming the UK Government for the savage spending cuts they are imposing on key public services in Scotland.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for finance and economy Liz Smith MSP, right, said: “The SNP Government has serious questions to answer on these figures.
“It’s clear that the Auditor General is frustrated by the lack of transparency on the public finances. He has made that point repeatedly yet, so far, there is no improvement. That’s not good enough.
“No-one doubts the very difficult fiscal circumstances facing all governments just now.
“But what jumps out is the fact that there has been a record-breaking underspend of £2 billion at a time when the SNP is forever complaining that the Scottish Government is underfunded by the UK Government – despite being in receipt of a record block grant.
“Of course, it’s in the SNP’s political interests to claim this, as a justification for their swingeing budget cuts to virtually every government department – except the constitution, of course.
“But those pleas will ring hollow when they haven’t even spent all the funds at their disposal. The SNP has no one else to blame but themselves and they should finally take responsibility for their own spending choices.
“This represents a massive underspend by Nicola Sturgeon and Co will have to justify.”
It is widely recognised in politics that failing to spend the money allocated you is probably the greatest sin any politician can commit.
The Scottish Government underspent their budget by nearly £2 billion – the largest underspend ever of the current devolution settlement. In 2021-22, the Scottish Government underspent their budget by £1,988 million. This is higher than the previous year’s underspend of £580 million and higher than any other year since the Scottish Parliament assumed control of income tax rates in 2016-17. In 2019-20 there was an overspend of £669 million, followed by a £778 million underspend in 2018-19, a £339 million underspend in 2017-18 and an £85 million underspend in 2016-17. (Audit of the Scottish Government’s Consolidated Accounts 2021-22, 1 December 2022, link; Audit of the Scottish Government’s Consolidated Accounts [Years back to 2016-17], Accessed 1 December 2022, link).