Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said his party will introduce a new Member’s Bill at Holyrood under the name “Open the Books Bill”, aimed at making the Scottish Government’s finances more easily accessible and transparent. The new Bill was announced as the Scottish Tory Conference kicks off in Aberdeen on Friday.
The Bill proposes the Scottish Government publish an updated version of the Budget every three months with a statement from the Finance Secretary.
It would also mean the SNP produces a value-for-money analysis on any future ownership of private enterprise ahead of purchase.
It would also push the Scottish Government to publish regular reports on the funds it operates.
The Scottish Conservative leader said the “public should be able to find out how every penny of their money is spent”.
Mr Ross added: “Our Open the Books Bill would strengthen financial transparency and government accountability.
“Too often, the vast sums that the SNP have at their disposal is shrouded in secrecy.
“We’ve all seen SNP ministers insist that they’re skint, only to hastily find another hundred million to spend.
“Just this week, Audit Scotland highlighted serious flaws in the transparency of Covid business grants, caused by a lack of information.
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Approximately £4.4 billion was made available by the Scottish government in the period from March 2020 to October 2021.
When the Omicron variant hit Scotland, an additional £375 million was added in December 2021.
Audit Scotland said that when looking at funding destined for sectors of the economy handed out by organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, around a fifth of payments could not be paired with council area.
Auditor General for Scotland, Stephen Boyle, commented that “knowing where the money went matters”, despite the “exceptional circumstances” of putting the support schemes into action “at pace”.
He added: “To get future policy development and delivery right, it will be important for the Scottish Government to fully understand how funding was used to support specific businesses and groups over the last two years of the pandemic.”
SNP economy secretary Kate Forbes insisted “every decision the Scottish Government has taken has centred around ensuring businesses got the support they needed when they needed it”.
She said the “over £4.5bn being allocated to businesses across the country, including around £1.6bn in rates relief” was a “more generous” package than other UK administrations had offered to businesses during the pandemic.
She added: “We will now carefully consider the findings of this report and of course any lessons will be learned, but fundamentally this report shows the decisions we took ensured lifeline support reached key businesses promptly and our economy continued to grow by 7.1 percent despite the necessary public health restrictions.”