I will begin by looking at Scotland performs and the national performance framework, on which the committee took a fair bit of evidence. In my view, the vast majority of that evidence was extremely positive, and although I think that the cabinet secretary fairly conveyed the flavour of the evidence that we received in the comments that he read out, I gently ask him to reconsider his remarks about what we should do about linkages between the NPF and the spending decisions that are made in the budget.
I entirely accept the cabinet secretary’s statement that it would not be worth while looking at the result of every public pound that is spent by the Scottish Government and, indeed, local government. That is a fair position to take. It would be possible to spend too much time on that and not get to the bottom of things, taking resources away from other parts of budget.
However, it is important for the Government to listen to what the committees and the experts had to say. The committees were strongly of the view that, as things stand, the linkages between expenditure and the NPF are not enough. Some people would say that there is no linkage whatever; others would say that there are linkages but they are not yet sufficient.
I think that the conclusion of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, which the Finance Committee invited the Government to consider, probably puts it best. It asked the Government
“to improve the linkage between expenditure and the NPF.”
That is a fair conclusion. It does not say that every piece of expenditure has to have a perfect and direct link with the NPF, but I think that it would be worth the Government’s while to review the issue and to look at where the linkages can be improved so that a clearer picture is provided. It appears to me that such linkages are established to a greater degree in the state of Virginia, which is where the framework that Scotland performs is based on originated. If it can be done to a greater degree in the state of Virginia, I am convinced that more can be done in Scotland to make those linkages clearer.