Scottish Government ‘must be more transparent on Covid money’

Spending grew to more than £50bn as the pandemic hit, Audit Scotland said.

Scottish Government ‘must be more transparent on Covid money’ PA Media

The Scottish Government needs to be more transparent about its spending on the pandemic, auditors have said, following an analysis of its yearly accounts.

Audit Scotland said the Government’s budget grew to £50.1bn in 2020/21, an increase of 27% from the previous year.

It allocated £8.6bn of Barnett consequentials – its share of UK Government funding – to financing Covid-19 activity.

The audit identified an underspend of £580m, though some of this was due to Barnett money being carried forward into the next financial year.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said there needed to be a clearer link between budgets, funding announcements and spending.

The need to get business support money out quickly meant there was a higher risk that cash could be lost to fraud or errors, he said.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government had to act quickly and decisively to respond to the huge threats the pandemic posed to lives, public safety, jobs and the economy.

“As a result, it needed to distribute very large amounts of money quickly, and sometimes had to accept higher risk on this than normal.

“The Scottish Government now needs to be more proactive in showing where and how this money was spent, and show a clearer line from budgets to funding announcements to actual spending.

“This will support scrutiny and transparency of a matter of such significant public interest and importance.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “This is the sixteenth consecutive year our accounts have received an unqualified opinion from Audit Scotland, demonstrating the Scottish Government’s sound and transparent management of the country’s finances.

“We put the people we serve at the heart of everything we do and, like other governments around the world, we have listened to businesses and tailored our support during this exceptional year to support jobs and the economy to stimulate a sustainable recovery.”

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