End-year Flexibility

Scottish Executive Question Time — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 10th June 2010.

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Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour 2:15 pm, 10th June 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is on the use of end-year flexibility. (S3O-10853)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

In the 2007 spending review, the Scottish Government set out its plans to draw down end-year flexibility balances between 2008-09 and 2010-11, in response to the tightest spending review settlement since devolution and taking into account the previous Administration's agreement with the Treasury to draw down £665 million in EYF in 2007-08. The Scottish Government subsequently confirmed its intention to draw down a further £129 million in EYF in 2010-11, to offset in full the cut that arose from the change to the Department of Health capital baseline that was included in the April 2009 UK budget.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for his well-constructed, but rather opaque, reply. I am reminded of the answer that my granny used to give when I asked her about the mysterious tin on the shelf. She would say, "There's nae need to be reckless, son. You've aye got to put money away for a rainy day." Given our inclement weather, and given that the cabinet secretary has already voraciously consumed £1.5 billion of the reserves that he inherited, how much will be left to deal with any future inclement or rainy days in Scotland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I always knew that Mr McAveety was constantly drenched by pessimism and all that goes with the inclement weather that he faces. I will bring some sunshine to him, to overcome his gloom. He may have considered my answer to be "opaque". If he thought that that was opaque, he has not yet heard me in full motion on some of the detail.

I will remind Mr McAveety of what has happened on end-year flexibility. When I became Scotland's finance minister, the previous Administration had committed itself to spend £655 million of end-year flexibility in the financial year 2007-08. If there were ever a cast-iron example of a Government trying to pay its way into an election, that was it. The sum in question was the largest amount of end-year flexibility to be used in any one financial year since 2007-08. I have never been able to spend as much end-year flexibility in one go as the previous Labour and Liberal Administration committed itself to spend: £655 million. Perhaps Mr McAveety and his colleagues, who supported the previous Administration, should have been paying closer attention to the strictures of Mr McAveety's granny before they used end-year flexibility.