Ministers are being urged to use a forthcoming spending review to set out “bold” measures to help create “a wellbeing economy”.
Members of Holyrood’s Finance Committee made the plea as they said the Scottish Government faced “difficult decisions” as the country looks to rebuild in the wake of coronavirus.
With committee convener Kenneth Gibson warning that “public finances will be under significant pressure” over the next few years, MSPs said there could be “real economic and societal benefits” in prioritising spending on preventative measures – whether this be on measures which protect the environment or help keep people healthy.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes is to set out her spending plans for the 2022-23 period when she reveals the draft Scottish budget next month – with the medium-term financial strategy also due to be unveiled at the same time.
In a report published ahead of that, the committee said that both the budget and the financial strategy should set out “how it intends to manage the economy to meet its net zero commitments by 2045”.
MSPs also demanded more information from ministers on what steps could be taken to tackle issues such as poverty and inequality.
They made the plea as they stressed that “it will not be possible to address the consequences of Covid-19” within the next budget alone.
As a result they said: “We therefore recommend that the Scottish Government explores within its next resource spending review and medium-term financial strategy, which policy interventions would have the greatest impact on cross-cutting issues such as addressing inequalities and poverty.”
The MSPs added that “the resource spending review provides an opportunity to introduce bold preventative measures to protect funds and create a wellbeing economy for the long term”.
Speaking as the report was published, Gibson stressed: “Public finances will be under significant pressure in the next few years and the Scottish Government faces difficult decisions on how it prioritises both revenue raising and expenditure.”
With Scotland having a declining working age population, he said there would need to be “focused and sustained policy prioritisation over a number of years” to increase productivity in order to grow the economy.
Gibson continued: “We also believe greater economic and societal benefits can be derived from prioritising preventative spending measures – whether to protect the environment or the nation’s health.
“The resource spending review provides an opportunity to introduce bold measures to optimise resources and create a wellbeing economy.”