By Mark Roberts, Senior Manager, Audit Scotland
At eleven in the evening, on the 29th March next year, the UK will leave the European Union. At Audit Scotland, we are interested in what this means for the 222 organisations we audit and the Scottish public sector as a whole.
Withdrawal from the EU represents a major constitutional change. It is happening at the same time as a significant expansion of the Scottish Parliament’s financial powers. Understanding, assessing and reporting on how all these changes together affect Scotland’s public finances and public sector organisations has been, and will continue to be, a major element of our work.
Over the next few months, our ongoing work on EU withdrawal is going to accelerate. We’re going to be talking to key groups and people from across the public sector and beyond about the implications of leaving the EU and what they are doing in response. In addition, we will be discussing with the public bodies we audit what their thinking is around assessing and preparing for life outside the EU.
Withdrawing from the EU has a direct effect on us too. We audit the Scottish part of the European Agricultural Funds Accounts. This is EU money that goes from the Scottish Government directly to support farmers as well as funding for wider rural development. As future funding arrangements for agricultural and rural support emerge, we too will have to change and adapt to this.
What EU withdrawal means in detail remains uncertain. It is clear to us that its impact on the public sector will vary markedly from organisation to organisation. For some, funding from the EU is an important component of their work, for others, EU laws and regulations ultimately drive a significant proportion of what they do and how they do it. And, in certain sectors, there are significant numbers of employees from other EU member states who play critical roles. There are other important aspects that potentially affect many public bodies, for example procurement and state-aid rules.
As the negotiations between the UK Government and the EU continue over the next few months, and the future becomes clearer, we continue to review and adapt our approach.