Covid-19 and Scotland’s public finances

by Fiona Diggle, Audit Manager

Covid-19 has seen around £5.3 billion announced by the Scottish Government to tackle the impact of the pandemic.  

Most of that spending has come from Barnett consequentials – extra funding that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get if the UK government decides to spend more in England on things that are devolved, such as health. 

So far, the Scottish Government has broadly spent that money in the same way as its UK counterparts. And it’s made a good start on ensuring there’s transparency around how it’s been spent. 

What we don’t know is how the pandemic will progress – or how much money the Scottish Government might need to move within its budget because of coronavirus. 

To date, only a relatively small amount of spending – about £855 million out of a near £50 billion budget – has been identified for reallocation. So far, £255m has been reprioritised within Scottish Government portfolios, and £230m has been reallocated to fund the ‘Return to Work’ package. 

The pandemic has also increased the importance of planning.  

The Scottish Government has national priorities that should guide the use of public money. The uncertainty coronavirus has brought – and the possibility of having to reallocate more money –   means the government and its partners need to be clear on what services are essential to achieving those priorities. 

If you’re interested in reading more, we cover all these issues in our new briefing paper: Covid-19 – Implications for Public Finances.  

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