Finance Secretary unclear about budget choices; public services at stake

Patrick Harvie MSP, Finance & Economy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (4 Oct) expressed disappointment at the ambiguous stance taken by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay over the restrictions to scrutiny of the 2017/18 Scottish Budget.

A majority of MSPs signed a motion by Patrick, noting that the Finance Committee believe the current timing of budget information is unacceptable and calling for scenario plans to be presented by 21 October.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"The Finance Secretary previously told the Finance Committee that he would expand on the choices available to the Scottish Government in its budget planning but he has gone back on that promise. He insists that he will try to provide information ahead of the draft budget on 15 December but that is exactly the language we heard before, so we are no further forward.

"In particular, Mr Mackay is being quite unclear about whether he intends to set out the budget choices he is himself considering, rather than just the impact of possible choices the UK Government might make. 

“Local government, public bodies and charities reliant on funding from Scottish Government will find it impossible to plan for the coming year and many will be looking at worst case scenarios as there is nothing else available. People's livelihoods and vital public services are at stake, and it is simply unreasonable for Scottish Ministers to refuse to outline how their budget choices could impact on different areas.

"The Finance Committee has bent over backwards to give the Finance Secretary every opportunity to revise his plans. If he chooses to defy a majority of MSPs, it will fall to Green MSPs and others to keep up the pressure so we get the information we need in order to deliver effective scrutiny."