Commitment 1: Provide financial and performance transparency (help you to understand how our finances work)
Timeline: December 2018 – 2020
Lead: Scottish Exchequer (Scottish Government) and related Scottish Government teams including:Public Spending, Infrastructure and Investment, Financial Management Directorate, Performance and Strategic Outcomes, Tax, Scottish National Investment Bank and Economy.
What problem are we trying to solve?
New powers were devolved to Scotland through the 2012 and 2016 Scotland Acts. These provided significant additional tax, spending and borrowing responsibilities for the Scottish Government.
In addition, there is growing public and Parliamentary interest in financial transparency and how financial management relates to performance against the National Performance Framework and Sustainable Development Goals. This includes tax policy, including how it compares to international comparators and to other parts of the UK, in economic performance which influences tax revenues and demand for public services, in borrowing decisions, and in contractual and spending patterns all of which support public services in Scotland.
What are we going to do?
This Scottish Government commitment is:
- To apply open government policies and practice to the further design and implementation of the newly established Scottish Exchequer and the development of the Scottish National Investment Bank to ensure they develop in line with international good practice on open government. It is proposed that the Scottish National Investment Bank's operations include an Ethical Statement, and a role for citizen involvement in an Advisory Group. Both of these proposed approaches have the potential and intent to inform thinking around the Bank's governance and wider accountability as well as improving citizen participation.
- To seek the views of stakeholders and the wider public about how to make Scotland's public finances more transparent and accessible in order to promote public discussion, debate and participation in financial and policy decision making. This will include learning from young people, primarily through working with YoungScot. The Scottish Government will work with partners and expert civil society actors to review and incorporate good practice on transparency, accountability and citizen engagement into the work of the Scottish Exchequer. This will include a number of round table events to bring together experts on fiscal transparency to share learning and understanding.
- To build on the work of the first Open Government Partnership Action Plan, in order to improve the effectiveness of budgetary information in communicating with external audiences.
This commitment will also include building on the work that is ongoing to deliver the recommendations of the recent Budget Process Review Group (BPRG) Report 2017. The report proposed that the Scottish Parliament's budget process should have the following four core objectives:
- to have a greater influence on the formulation of the Scottish Government's budget proposals
- to improve transparency and raise public understanding and awareness of the budget
- to respond effectively to new fiscal and wider policy challenges
- to lead to better outputs and outcomes as measured against benchmarks and stated objectives.
We, the Scottish Government, will begin with developing accessible financial information for young people, as we know from feedback that they do not find current information on public finances informative. So, taking action to build understanding now will be an important foundation for future citizenship.
The first stage will involve project working with young people in deliberative workshops over the coming 6 months to provide insights into the questions they wish to see addressed.
One key aim of work to implement the BPRG recommendations (outlined above) will be to find ways of making clearer links between public finance decisions and the National Performance Framework and Sustainable Development Goals.
This commitment will also include:
- consideration of how budget information could complement participatory budgeting
- consideration of how the strategy and processes of the Scottish National Investment Bank are able to be understood and influenced by citizens
- improving transparency on what government spends and the contracts and services it procures.
We will explore if and how the existing data can be shared to help citizens understand how public funds are spent and making this information more accessible – using more visual presentations of the information, and plain language.
How will this help solve the public problem?
Those in Scottish Government who hold the financial information and support the decision-taking processes will understand from others – initially, from young people and also from experts – the questions they have about public finances. They should then be able to use that understanding to improve financial information that is made publicly available.
Importantly this work will support the aim for the Scottish National Investment Bank to fulfil a leadership role in terms of building public trust, diversity, equality, transparency and accountability.
Publishing better information on procurement processes and spend should help people better understand how the money is used and accounted for, and more easily be able to understand information that is published.
In delivering this commitment the Scottish Government will advance its commitment to all four Open Government Partnership values of Transparency, Accountability, Participation and Technology and Innovation. The delivery of this commitment will build on the new financial information produced by the Scottish Government through its new Medium Term Financial Strategy, its new Fiscal Framework Outturn Report, the Scotland's Finances publication and the redesigned Scottish Budget document, which aim to increase the clarity, format and range of publicly available information on how Scotland's Budget is agreed and spent.
This commitment is core to the values in Scotland's National Performance Framework and supports the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals by seeking to articulate more clearly the link between performance information and fiscal decisions. It is a fundamental part of the Scottish Government's commitment to delivery of new devolved powers in Scotland in a ways that are transparent and open.
1. Scottish National Investment Bank adopts Open Government principles and culture and explores setting up the following:
- Citizen Advisory Group
- Develops Ethical Statement with public participation and input
2. Young people's understanding of Public Finances Report – with YoungScot – will be published
3. The Spending Review will be completed by December 2019 in time for Budget 2020-21. A new development in transparency for the Spending Review will be the publication of a Spending Review Framework by June 2019, which will set out the economic and political context, the criteria which will govern the assessment of budgets and the process and timetable for the review. This is in line with the Budget Process Review Group Report (recommendation 4), and is intended to amongst other things to support Parliamentary Committees in undertaking 'a constructive dialogue with the Government, public bodies and stakeholders… in order to influence the outcome of the spending review'.
4. We have committed to progress on making closer links with outcomes and the budget over the years ahead. Key milestones are each successive Scottish Budget, which would usually be published in December each year for the forthcoming financial year.
Indicators of progress would be:
- commentary and analysis in the Budget document showing how spending contributes to intermediate outputs, measures and milestones set for new policies – with the outcomes those policies we are aiming to achieve set out clearly at the time they were announced;
- a clearer link between policies and plans and the Budget document to show how the allocation of resources contributes to priorities, long-term aims and outcomes.
5. Make links between budget and outcomes: Publish more information about Scotland's progress in relation to the National Performance Framework and Sustainable Development Goals.
6. Publish Scottish Government procurement-related spend information.
7. Publish Scottish Government contract documentation, starting with large collaborative frameworks.
8. Consult with civil society on how best to make published procurement information useful and accessible to a wide audience.
State actors could include: Scottish Parliament, Scottish Fiscal Commission, Revenue Scotland.
Active Partners could include: Scottish Open Government Partnership network Young Scot, Transparency International, Global Institute of Fiscal Transparency, OECD.