MSPs on the Finance Committee and across the Chamber are clear that for Parliamentary scrutiny to be meaningful we need more opportunity to question the Government's budget priorities.Patrick Harvie MSP
Patrick Harvie MSP, Finance & Economy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (Mon 3 Oct) urged the Scottish Government to respond constructively to the growing calls for it to give Parliament a better chance to scrutinise the Scottish Budget.
A motion lodged by Mr Harvie ahead of tomorrow's Finance Committee debate - which urges that scenario plans be presented before the end of the forthcoming recess on 21 October - has received the support of 64 other opposition MSPs, meaning that a majority of Parliament has backed the call for the Government to act.
The draft budget is normally published in September, but is being delayed till December, giving MSPs inadequate time to examine it.
The Finance Committee, of which Mr Harvie is a member, recently wrote to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, saying that his decision not to publish budget scenario plans was unacceptable. Without such plans it is likely that Holyrood committees will only have two meetings to try to examine the draft 2017/18 budget, listen to the views of witnesses, and hold the Government to account.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
"The Finance Committee and all opposition parties understand the Government’s difficulty, as it waits for the UK’s autumn budget statement and the Chancellor’s 'fiscal reset'. We have gone to great lengths to give the Government other options, including publishing scenario plans. We were pleased at Derek Mackay’s commitment to do that, and the reversal of that position is clearly unacceptable.
“We could have forced the issue to a vote in the Chamber, but this isn’t about inflicting a defeat for the sake of it. We want to make it clear to the Government that they must provide the information we’ve asked for. I hope that Mr Mackay takes Tuesday’s debate as an opportunity to work with us.
“The public expects MSPs to scrutinise the Scottish Government's spending plans. If Ministers stick to their timetable of only publishing a draft budget just before Christmas, we will be prevented from serving the public properly.
"MSPs on the Finance Committee and across the Chamber are clear that for Parliamentary scrutiny to be meaningful we need more opportunity to question the Government's budget priorities. This week's debate is a chance for Ministers to live up the First Minister’s promise of being an open and inclusive government."
The motion lodged by Patrick Harvie ahead of tomorrow's debate is:
That the Parliament notes the letter from the Finance Committee to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, on September 21st; agrees with the Committee that the Scottish Government’s refusal to publish budget scenario planning information and illustrative figures in advance of the draft budget is unacceptable, and urges the Scottish Government to put this information into the public domain before the end of the October recess.