Scottish Government expenditure since May 2021: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

Can you please provide me with all the instances when a Scottish Government Minister or Cabinet Secretary has provided written authority to the accountable officer for any particular instances of Scottish Government expenditure since May 2021 to the present.


The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration (the Permanent Secretary) and Accountable Officers designated by them for parts of the Scottish Administration are under a statutory duty to obtain written authority from the relevant Minister where they consider that any action, they are required to take would be inconsistent with their responsibilities. These responsibilities include ensuring financial propriety and regularity and ensuring that relevant resources are used economically, efficiently, and effectively (i.e., value for money). A value for money written authority need only be sought in relation to the implementation of policy. Accountable Officers are not answerable to the Parliament in respect of policy decisions. Policy is the responsibility of Ministers. 

Since devolution there have been six occasions where Accountable Officers for parts of the Scottish Administration have sought written authority. Five were before 2008 and all were sought in relation to value for money, two were on the same issue. This information is currently in the public domain on the Scottish Government website ( and I have included the publicly available table in this response for ease. 

Therefore, in answer to your request I can confirm that there has have been one written authority under section 15(8) of Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 requested by an accountable officer in any part of the Scottish administration, between the dates 1 May 2021 and 17 May 2023 the last occurrence was on 14 May 2023. I also have provided details of this written authority in the attached table below. More details on the Accountable Officer role in relation to value for money can be found in the Scottish Public Finance Manual on the Scottish Government website: 

Written authorities from ministers to Accountable Officers: from 1 July 1999: 








Campbeltown to Ballycastle Ferry Service 

In the light of the financial and economic appraisals that were carried out officials had advised Ministers that, with a high anticipated subsidy requirement and a low level of forecast employment creation, the project represented very poor value for money in terms of the probable costs and economic benefits. 


Nicola Munro 

Wendy Alexander 


Lifeline Air Services Glasgow and Barra 

Officials advised Ministers that the savings from the withdrawal of air services out of Barra would have a positive NPV for the Sound of Barra vessel. A written authority was therefore sought to act on the Ministers' decision to continue the Glasgow - Barra air service. 


Nicola Munro 

Iain Gray 


Relocation of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) 

SNH were subject to a relocation review in pursuance of the Executive’s relocation policy. Their main headquarters functions are at present housed in two buildings in Edinburgh. The option appraisal showed that a move to anywhere outside Edinburgh would be significantly more expensive than the status quo. 


John Graham 

Ross Finnie 


Campbeltown to Ballycastle Ferry Service 

In light of the financial and economic appraisals that had been carried out officials had advised Ministers that, with a high subsidy requirement and a low level of forecast employment creation, the project did not pass the value for money appraisals applied to such proposals. (The 2002 written authority did not cover this tendering exercise – it was effectively spent at the conclusion of that tendering exercise.) 


Eddie Frizzell 

Nichol Stephen 


HMP Bishopbriggs 

The Accountable Officer was concerned that cancelling the competition for a PFI design, build and operate contract and beginning a new competition to design and build a prison for public sector operation would result in significant additional expenditure (because of the gap in cost efficiency between public and private operation) and import significant delay into the project (because the procurement process would effectively go back to start). 

Justice/ SPS 

Mike Ewart 

Kenny MacAskill 


Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) 

At the time of the written authority regularity and propriety of completing vessel 802 under construction at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow), was in line with the existing contract. Yet in a value for money case, where the Accountable Officer was required to be satisfied that resources are used economically, efficiently, and effectively, was more challenging. 

A comparison of the projected costs until the vessel was completed with the alternative options; allied to risks driven by inflationary pressures and supply chain issues and an uncertain economic outlook, combined made it very difficult for the Accountable Officer to gain sufficient assurance on value for money. The written authority was provided and was based on the value for money position of the 802 vessel compared to procuring a new vessel. 


Gregor Irwin 

Neil Gray 


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