Resource Spending Review Framework: Analysis of consultation responses
Analysis of responses to our consultation on the Resource Spending Review.
The first section of the Framework sought views on the three key priorities that the Scottish Government proposed the spending review process would focus on.
Q1. In Chapter 1 we have identified three priorities to guide the Resource Spending Review process:
- To support progress towards meeting our child poverty targets
- To address climate change
- To secure a stronger, fairer, greener economy
Setting these as priorities helps us consider where spend should be targeted and re-directed. Do you agree that our resource spending should focus on these?
We welcome your views on these three priorities for this Resource Spending Review.
Overall, many respondents agreed with the proposed priorities, with some describing them as important, strong, interwoven, and complementary. Most organisations in support of the priorities were charities and non-profit organisations, who constituted a large proportion of respondents to the consultation. The Scottish Community Development Centre commented: "We agree that the three priorities identified are of major importance …not only the next five years, but in the longer-term. All three priorities are interwoven and as such spending on one area will have an impact on all three."
Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire also commented: "All three priorities are important and interlinked. A stronger, fairer and greener economy should address child poverty and climate change."
While agreeing with the need to focus on these priorities, a number of individuals and organisations also called for additional action. Suggestions included actions within and outside the proposed priorities, and also covered, health and social care, the third sector, technology, and equity, among other aspects.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy's Directors of Finance (DoF) noted that public services are operating in "an extremely challenging environment", and said the potential funding gaps under different scenarios highlighted in the Framework were "deeply concerning".
At the Academic / Think Tank and Third Sector engagement sessions, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy informed attendees of the inclusion of an additional priority – strong, responsive public services – since the development of the Framework. This addition, along with the other three priorities, was broadly welcomed.
Responses in relation to the three priorities outlined in the Framework
Whilst most respondents supported the prioritisation of tackling child poverty, a number of specific issues were highlighted. A number addressed the language used on this theme: Scotland's Learning Partnership expressed concern over the stereotyping of children and child poverty. In their words, "the group believes that children are not poor, their parent/guardians are and this type of description often labels them from the start." Hence, the group called for a description of the priority as: 'Address inequalities in life and work' rather than 'child poverty'. Similarly, the Community Transport Association called for a broadening of the first priority to reflect wider issues around tackling inequality and poverty.
Other responses referenced the timescales required to address child poverty: Co-operatives UK called on the Scottish Government to address child poverty in the immediate term but take proactive efforts in the mid-term to avert its future occurrence. The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland also recommended addressing child poverty outcomes through a metric that indicates reduced later use of secondary mental health services while the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland also recommended including resource allocation to meet immediate child poverty targets in the framework.
Climate change and the environment
Again, most organisations answering this question supported the prioritisation of climate change. Amongst the specific points made, organisations argued for dedicated funding, and for a focus on particular groups. For example, The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) called for the creation of a £25 million climate emergency innovation fund for third and independent sector social care organisations to cater to climate-related risks, while Citizens Advice Scotland called for a just transition to net-zero without negatively impacting vulnerable groups.
Highlighting a specific focus deserving funding attention the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges Scotland (EAUC Scotland) called for an acceleration of the green skills development of the present workforce to meet net-zero targets.
Some individuals and organisations highlighted the importance of considering the nature crisis alongside the climate change priority. Specifically, the Scottish Wildlife Trust stated: "The three priorities omit what the Scottish Government already recognised in the Programme for Government in that the climate and nature crises together "are the greatest threats facing people and the planet". The nature crisis is not a subset of the climate crisis and this needs to be clearly recognised in the Resource Spending Review." This view was echoed by participants at the Climate Change – Civil Society roundtable.
Within responses from individuals, arguments were occasionally made to prioritise funding for one theme rather than another, and the case made for deprioritisation of funding. The range of responses offering deprioritisation was broad with both calls for the deprioritisation of environmental issues and support for the higher prioritisation of mental health. Others who disagreed with the emphasis on the environment, suggested there was a need to support local economies and well-paying jobs to tackle child poverty.
At the Climate Change-Civil Society, and Climate Change-Youth roundtables, the deprioritisation of high emission projects and programmes was emphasised, and participants suggested that the Scottish Government should focus on a just transition and projects to develop wetlands and sea grass.
Stronger, greener and fairer economy
Of responses that offered a view on this priority, there was general endorsement of this theme as being important in the post-COVID era. Addressing the third priority, some important areas of focus were raised by respondents. These highlighted the specific aspects of economic recovery that were considered priorities for funding. For example, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland included the need for parity of esteem between physical and mental health, spending on mental health care and support, addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, and tackling unemployment. Furthermore, the organisation expressed support for a mental health and wellbeing impact assessment to be developed to mainstream mental health considerations in all areas of government, including around economic policy.
Organisations also argued that the planning for longer term spending offered the opportunity for a new direction in how the economy is supported by funding. For example, Co-operatives UK called on the Scottish Government to aim towards a five-fold increase in the number of new Scottish co-operatives, the design and delivery of interventions to support new co-operative scale-up, and specifically argued for the allocation of £4.4 million to provide scale-up support that caters to ambitious co-operatives. In addition to listed priorities, further issues raised by individuals included business simulation, the neglect of older people, and concerns about the proper and judicious spending of allocated funds.
As noted in the Climate Change section, the roundtables focused on Climate Change emphasised the importance of just transition in progressing the Scottish Government's economic objectives. This approach was seen as a way to tackle all three priorities simultaneously.
Other issues raised
Respondents raised issues on both the overall approach to the priorities, as well as suggesting a range of additional priorities.
The overall approach
Some respondents considered the overall approach to prioritisation. The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) for example called for "absolute clarity" on the rationale underpinning the selection of priorities, alongside information on how they will be delivered, to provide an understanding of any fundamental changes that will be required to support their implementation. Furthermore, the RSE noted: "The framing and wording of all three priorities lack consistency, and requires re-visiting to ensure there isn't a disconnect between the overarching objectives and what is delivered". The Fraser of Allander Institute also called for clarity on how the RSR priorities link to the National Outcomes.
The RSE proposed an alternative set of priorities to guide the RSR: (1) establish an efficient, highly skilled economy (2) address the climate change and biodiversity crises, and (3) develop stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission welcomed the Scottish Government's approach to be more outcomes-focused, evidence-informed, and consultative/participative. Public Health Scotland also recommended "an outcomes-based approach for funding and enabling public services". The importance of taking an outcomes-based approach was welcomed in all of the stakeholder engagement sessions, as was the importance of prioritisation when taking such an approach.
Participants in the Academic / Think Tank roundtable noted that, in order to deliver on priorities, the Scottish Government would likely need to make some challenging decisions in what to fund and consider the implications of any 'trade-offs'.
While the question specifically asked about the three priorities set out in the RSR Framework, respondents took the opportunity to put forward additional priorities. A summary of respondents' suggestions can be found in Section 9.
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