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Scottish Budget Delay (Impact on Dumfries and Galloway Council)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th November 2019.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what the impact will be on Dumfries and Galloway Council of the delay to the Scottish budget because of the general election. (S5O-03834)

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

The lack of any certainty on the timing of the United Kingdom budget for 2020-21 means that we continue to manage an uncertain and challenging situation, which has imposed delays on our plans for the Scottish budget. That impacts on all local authorities along with other public bodies—I understand that.

We continue to work with the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Scottish Fiscal Commission to determine the best approach in the circumstances and ensure that we are in a position to introduce a Scottish budget for 2020-21 at the earliest practical opportunity. I will keep our local government and other partners up to date as that work develops.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

The delay to the budget is causing much frustration and concern in Government, local authorities and the third sector. Will the cabinet secretary outline whether any shortfalls are expected in Government funding of Scottish public services, including third sector organisations?

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Again, that highlights that the UK Government, once elected, should move to a budget-setting process as quickly as possible so that we have political understanding about how it will impact on the devolved Administrations, not least that of Scotland.

We are concerned about that and we are engaging with local government; I have just come from a meeting with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on this and other matters. I want to be able to give as much certainty as I can as quickly as I can.

Emma Harper’s question was specifically about support for local government and third sector organisations. I know that my colleague Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, is engaging with the third sector to give further reassurance about that.

However, fundamentally, it is for the UK Government to proceed swiftly with its budget process, so I have written to both the current chancellor and the prospective chancellor to impress on them the need to move to a budget as quickly as possible.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sure that the cabinet secretary will be happy to acknowledge that we do not have a UK Government budget because we have an upcoming general election, which is what his party called for.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

We are where we are. Clearly, I am not calling for a UK budget before 12 December; I am calling for one as quickly as possible after 12 December. The sooner that that happens the better, because that will give more time for me to present the Scottish budget, for Murdo Fraser to look at the numbers and for us to have an argument about the numbers. It is important that the timescale allows as much time as possible for scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.

As I said, we are where we are. We are waiting for the UK Government to be elected. We all have our preferences for what we want that to look like and how Scotland will feature in it. However, any UK Government that respects devolution and wants to ensure the orderly delivery of public services and tax setting in Scotland should proceed with its budget and share information as quickly and sensibly as possible.