Watchdog voices concerns over Covid spending transparency

Audit Scotland says that it will be ‘increasingly difficult’ to delineate pandemic-related spending

Maintaining transparency around Covid spending will become “increasingly difficult” as Scotland moves into the recovery phase, the public spending watchdog has warned.

Audit Scotland said defining what is and is not spending related to the pandemic was already challenging, and that is likely to become harder going forward.

The Scottish Government estimates it has spent over £8.8bn of the £9.3bn allocated to Covid-19 in 2020/21.

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The majority of this (£8.6bn) comes from extra spending via Barnett consequentials – the name given to money allocated to devolved administrations by an HM Treasury formula – while the rest has been reallocated from existing Scottish Government budgets.

Around £1.15bn in Barnett funding was carried over from the previous financial year but the UK government has not confirmed this will be allowed again next year.

Audit Scotland warned this will make medium-term financial planning more of a challenge.

Stephen Boyle, auditor general, said: “As Scotland moves into the recovery phase from the pandemic, it will likely become increasingly difficult to define what is, and what isn’t, Covid-19 spending. The Scottish Government is managing financial pressures which predate the pandemic, such as spending on health and social care. That means difficult decisions lie ahead and, despite the challenges, it increases the need for a medium-term plan to manage the levels of uncertainty and volatility facing the Scottish budget.”


Sam Trendall

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