Murdo Fraser MSP has said the SNP Government should be strengthening the powers of Audit Scotland, not trying to curb them, stating it would be “atrocious” if this happened.
The Scottish Conservative politician recently raised the issue with Finance Minister Kate Forbes when he asked her how a reported proposed real-terms cuts to the budget of the watchdog could impact on its work.
Ms Forbes stressed that the budget for Audit Scotland is set by the Scottish Parliament, but Mr Fraser pointed out that there was an indicative proposed real-terms cut of £1 million to Audit Scotland’s budget in the recent SNP Government’s spending review, published just two weeks ago.
Commenting, Mr Fraser, who represents the Mid Scotland and Fife region, said: “Even more concerning than that are the reported comments in the media from senior SNP figures about ‘clipping the wings’ of Audit Scotland. One source was quoted saying, ‘Audit Scotland has become too powerful – this has been talked about in the Government for years.’
“It would be atrocious if this Government tried to emasculate the very body that does such an effective job on shining a light on its failures. I therefore asked the Finance Minister in the Chamber if she agreed with me that we need to strengthen the powers of Audit Scotland, not try to cut its powers, but disappointingly she failed to answer this properly.”
Mr Fraser continued: “The important role of Audit Scotland in scrutinising spending by the SNP Government cannot be underestimated. It was they who last week revealed that SNP Ministers failed to spend £2.5 billion of Covid funding, which had been provided by the UK Government.
“Audit Scotland found that Nicola Sturgeon’s Government spent £11.8 billion of the £14.4 billion it was given through the Barnett formula to tackle the pandemic in the last two financial years.
“A gap between Nationalist rhetoric and delivery is typical, but the watchdog’s alarming conclusion is that we simply don’t know why, where, or even whether, these funds were spent. That is simply unacceptable, and the Scottish Conservatives will keep pressing the SNP for answers on this.”
Mr Fraser raised the issue in the Chamber at the Scottish Parliament during a Finance Portfolio Question session.