My predecessor and I have engaged with Treasury ministers on numerous occasions to highlight the challenges caused by a late UK budget—challenges that were recognised on a cross-party basis. Despite that, the UK budget will not take place until 11 March, and I have received no indication of its likely content. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has agreed to attend a meeting of finance ministers from the UK Government and the devolved Administrations on 10 March but has noted that the information that he can share on the UK budget will be constrained by market sensitivities.
Indeed, I do. It is not just a complete disregard for this Government but a complete disregard for Scottish communities and businesses that rely on the certainty that comes with the information in the budget. In order to combat that, we have presented the budget on the basis of the best available information, including provisional block grant adjustments and the Conservative Party manifesto from last year. However, that increases the financial risk around the budget and the risk of larger fiscal framework reconciliations in later years. The lack of engagement by the UK Government demonstrates a complete disregard for devolution and the interests of Scottish communities.
The member will know that any in-year budget changes are taken through the Finance and Constitution Committee; there is scrutiny in that process. There are also autumn and spring budget revisions. Subject to the level of difference between our estimates and what is in the UK Government budget, which will be announced next week, we intend to honour that process, as we have done every year.
Has the new chancellor given the Scottish Government any indication that the UK Government’s cart-before-the-horse approach will not be taken again in subsequent years? Does the cabinet secretary think that there is an understanding at an official level in Whitehall of the catastrophically chaotic impact of the delay that the UK Government has imposed on us this year?
I am not particularly optimistic that that has been recognised. At the quadrilateral meeting next week, I, along with ministers from the other devolved Governments, intend to make the case about how much volatility and uncertainty the delayed UK Government budget has introduced. This is about taxpayers, our committees and our public services, which rely on the certainty that comes through the budget.
On engagements between Treasury officials and our officials, we have repeatedly been referred to the Conservative Party manifesto for the best available estimates of what we should include in relation to consequentials, which is no way to set a budget.