The Scottish Government said it had spent £ 8.8billion of the £ 9.3billion allocated by the UK Government through the Barnett formula in 2020/21. But a report today by Audit Scotland called for better transparency around what is classified as COVID-19 spending in various government portfolios.
The report, produced by Stephen Boyle, Auditor General of Scotland, noted that more than 300 individual spending measures had been taken by SNP ministers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The largest amount of cash is allocated to business, health and social care, and local government.
However, Mr Boyle warned as Scotland moved into the recovery phase from the pandemic and then “it will likely be increasingly difficult to define what is, and what is not spending COVID-19”.
He said: “The Scottish Government is managing the financial pressures that preceded the pandemic, such as spending on health and social care.
“That means difficult decisions lie ahead and, despite the challenges, it increases the need for a short -term plan to manage the levels of uncertainty and volatility facing the Scottish budget.”
Mr. Boyle stressed: “Transparency is important but difficult in a fast -paced and unpredictable environment.”
The report also noted that difficult budget decisions were awaited for the SNP -led Scottish Government as Scotland recovers from the pandemic.
The £ 1.15billion in Barnett formula funding was brought into the Scottish Government’s 2021/22 budget from 2020/21.
“Again, the SNP is openly attempting to avoid accountability and hide from their long -term failures.
“The SNP Government must immediately make their pandemic spending open to fair and comprehensive review, so that we can ensure that Covid spending is spent responsibly.”
John Ferry, Scottish Lib Dem’s finance representative called for precautions to be put in place to identify funding differences.
He added: “These figures show the vast extent of the additional resources provided by the Treasury to support Scottish families and businesses, by the Scottish Government, through the pandemic.
“However, with so many large amounts at play we need proper precautions in place to ensure that government spending is effectively thought out.
“Lack of transparency and accountability needs to be addressed as a priority. It needs good governance.”
But a Scottish Government spokesman said in response: “Every cent received by the Scottish Government to support the COVID-19 response was spent or allocated.
“We are working to be completely clear and the Finance Secretary has detailed in Parliament where the additional £ 1.15billion consequence, which has been confirmed too late to be used in the last fiscal year, has been spent.
“This includes expanding relief rates for retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses for the entire 2021/22.
“We are pleased that Audit Scotland recognizes the challenge facing the Scottish Government in managing its budget without clarity on how much funding it will receive.
“Despite repeated requests, the UK Government has so far refused to guarantee the level of outcome of COVID-19 relative to Barnett this year, despite doing so in 2020/21.
“We continue to strive for this certainty, along with additional financial flexibility that will allow us to drive Scotland’s pandemic recovery more effectively.”