Looking ahead: our work programme

Audit Scotland, on behalf of the Accounts Commission and Auditor General for Scotland, implemented its new approach to programme development about 18 months ago. An important part of that was introducing a more strategic five year rolling work programme, which gets refreshed every year. We did our first formal refresh of its content last December and have published the results today.

Our approach involved taking stock of the unprecedented changes that have been taking place in Scotland, the UK and beyond over the last year, such as Scotland’s New Financial Powers and the outcome of the EU referendum, and what they might mean for our work. We also gave careful consideration to whether the timing was still right for some of the work to which we’re still committed as part of our rolling programme, for example, our planned series of reports on health and social care integration.

A key objective of our new approach to programme development was to ensure that our work is focusing on important issues, where the insights that audit can bring will add value and help make a positive difference to public spending and policy in Scotland.

That being the case we’ve consulted lots of people, both formally and informally, on the key priorities and what our work should focus on. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank anyone who fed in to this process, as the contributions that we received were all valuable and helped us to shape our work plans going forward.

The feedback we’ve had so far has been positive, but we’re not complacent. Over the coming year we will be working hard to broaden our engagement with different groups of people who use and deliver public services in Scotland.

We’ll also be trying out different ways of communicating the messages from our work so that we play our part in improving the key public services that make such a difference to so many people’s lives across Scotland. You can find out more about the different ways we report our work here.

In the mean time if you have any comments on the work programme, or our approach to programme development, find out how to get in touch by visiting our website.

About the author


MM6A7183Antony Clark is an Assistant Director at Audit Scotland.

Auditing historic change in Scotland’s public finances

On 1st April, the Scottish Parliament gained control of income tax rates and bands, higher borrowing limits, and the management of the Crown Estate in Scotland – and there are more new powers to come.

The Scotland Act 2016 is fundamentally changing management of the public finances and, once fully implemented, half of what is spent in Scotland will be raised here and the budget will be subject to greater uncertainty and volatility than ever before. With more control over public finances and new opportunities and risks, it’s clear that we’re entering new territory.

The scale of change needed to implement and manage the new financial powers is significant and it’s important that the Parliament and the public can see what progress is being made. As the public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland has carried out extensive work in this area.

On Thursday, I’ll join the Auditor General, Caroline Gardner, and colleagues to present the findings of our latest report on managing new financial powers to Holyrood’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. We looked at how the Scottish Government, Revenue Scotland and the Scottish Fiscal Commission are introducing and managing the range of powers devolved through the 2012 and 2016 Scotland Acts.

We found that the Scottish Government is well-organised to deliver new tax and spending powers. It has updated its structures for overseeing the new powers and has good programme management processes in place. Revenue Scotland is also making good progress in preparing for further devolved taxes, and the transition of the Scottish Fiscal Commission to a statutory body is being managed effectively.

The new powers will substantially change the type and volume of work the Scottish Government will do. We found that the Scottish Government is identifying the staff and skills it needs, but recruiting enough people with the required skills may prove difficult. We recommend that the Scottish Government build a clearer picture of potential future costs, to help plan how it will fund implementation of the new powers within its budget.

In this changing environment, a more strategic approach to public financial management and reporting is needed. This includes a medium-term financial strategy based on clear policies and principles. The Scottish Government is taking steps to provide a more comprehensive picture of the public finances, as it’s important that the Parliament and public have the information they need to understand and scrutinise the government’s financial decisions.

MSPs will have the chance to discuss these findings in detail with us this week, and the session can be watched live on Parliament TV.

We’ll continue to report on the progress of public bodies in implementing and managing the new financial powers. If you’re interested in our work in this area, our new e-hub on financial devolution has a range of reports, exhibits, briefings and other useful tools.

About the author

MarkTaylorMark Taylor is an Assistant Director in Audit Scotland. He is responsible for overseeing Audit Scotland’s work relating to financial devolution and constitutional change.