As James Kelly and other members have pointed out repeatedly throughout the debate, we are talking about a margin of about £200 million, in a budget of more than £30 billion. That is relatively minor in comparison with the devastating impact that Derek Mackay’s proposals will have on effective parliamentary scrutiny.
When we consider the marginal impact that the UK autumn statement is likely to have on the Scottish Government’s budget against the significant impact on effective parliamentary scrutiny that the cabinet secretary’s proposals will have, it is obvious where the balance of public interest lies.
The cabinet secretary’s plans are disproportionate, unnecessary, profoundly disrespectful of Parliament’s authority and—to be frank—unworthy of him. As Audit Scotland said:
“Effective Parliamentary scrutiny is critical to ensure that decisions being taken by government are thoroughly tested and independently reviewed.”
Audit Scotland went on to say that there is
“the need for a step change in budget scrutiny”.
Well, this is a step change in budget scrutiny, but it is not quite in the direction that Audit Scotland had in mind. The proposals are unworthy of the cabinet secretary and should be resisted.