Scottish devolution: a framework for audit and accountability

This document sets out the arrangements for ensuring that public services in Scotland can be properly audited to help the UK and Scottish Parliaments hold public bodies to account.

Principles for Accountability and Devolution

This framework supports the policy principles set out in the Fiscal Framework and is intended to foster positive and productive relationships between the respective Parliaments, Executives and public bodies. The UK and Scottish Governments will review these principles as part of a wider review of the Fiscal Framework.

This framework does not supersede bespoke agreements made between executives or requirements set out in legislation regarding obligations to deliver services or arrangements for audit and accountability.

This framework does not inhibit the rights of access of national auditors to the bodies to which they have been appointed as auditor, nor does it inhibit the ability of national auditors to work together to help each other fulfil their statutory functions effectively.

1. Each public body will only be directly accountable to one elected legislature for the performance of the body as a whole.

1.1. UK government and UK public bodies are accountable to the UK Parliament.

1.2. Scottish government and Scottish public bodies are accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

1.3. Subject to the principles below, formal obligations to deliver services, make reports and give account can only be set by the sponsoring legislature.

2. Public bodies may deliver public services to the executive in another jurisdiction with the agreement of its own executive.

2.1. UK government bodies may make agreements with the Scottish Government to deliver devolved services.

2.2. Scottish public bodies may make agreements with the UK Government to deliver reserved services.

2.3. UK parliamentary bodies and their Scottish counterparts may make arrangements to support each other in fulfilling their remit, bilaterally or with the agreement of their Parliaments.

2.4. If there is no agreement (or statutory provision), each executive will deliver its own services, but decisions on the delivery model should take account of value for money across the whole system.

3. The executive in the commissioning jurisdiction is accountable to its own legislature for delivery of services, regardless of which jurisdiction the public body providing the services is in.

3.1. The public body delivering the commissioned service is responsible to the commissioning body as outlined in any commissioning agreement.

3.2. The commissioning executive is accountable to its parliament for the way it has obtained delivery of the services.

3.3. The commissioning executive is accountable to its parliament for the delivery of services by public bodies within its jurisdiction, and for any agreements made with UK public bodies.

3.4. Where statutory provisions make other arrangements, the contracted delivery body may have direct accountability to both legislatures for specific activities.

4. A public body will be free to charge for any services commissioned by the legislature or executive other than its own sponsor.

4.1. If delivering discretionary services, not required by statute of its own parliament, the public body may recover funding for those services from the commissioning body or seek approval for that work to be funded through the supply process.

4.2. Charging between public sector bodies should normally be at full cost recovery only.

5. A legislature may seek, and a public body will provide, information, advice or reporting direct to the legislature of another jurisdiction:

  • where there is a specific statutory provision for this;
  • where this has been agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding; or
  • on a voluntary basis (subject to there being no significant impact on resources or delivery of its core services).

5.1. In all cases, the position of the relevant executives should be taken into account. Where strict formality may suggest that requests should be routed via the executive, a direct approach is permissible provided the executive is kept informed.

5.2. In cases where the public body is directly accountable to a parliament[2], the request should be made via the requesting legislature's equivalent body. For example, a Scottish committee seeking audit information from a UK public body should ask the Auditor General for Scotland to obtain that information. The Auditor General for Scotland should then discuss the request with the Comptroller and Auditor General.

6. A public body will not be bound by any direction from the alternate executive or any recommendation of the alternate legislature, except where this leads to an agreed change in the service agreement.

6.1. any recommendations made by the requesting legislature should be limited to their (devolved or reserved) competence and directed at their own executive, unless it has statutory powers to require action from another public body.

7. Noting the statutory arrangements outlined below, public bodies should enable and support national auditors in carrying out their responsibilities

7.1. The statutory framework for each national auditor ensures that they have complete discretion in how they carry out their functions and that national auditors are free to determine their work programme independently.

7.2. National auditors may make arrangements between themselves to ensure that they can fulfil their responsibilities to meet the legitimate accountability needs of the different legislatures. In the unlikely event of disagreement, national auditors should be prepared to discuss this with the relevant legislature that requires the audit assurance.



Back to top