Political leadership gap in economic strategy

Thursday February 8th 2024

Stephen Boyle Audit Scotland

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland.

This View has been written by Audit Scotland

The Scottish Government’s 10-year economic strategy currently lacks collective political leadership and clear targets.

The government launched its National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) in March 2022. Its aim is to create a wellbeing economy, where economic growth is not the only measure of success.

Officials quickly established governance structures, including a NSET delivery board comprised of relevant experts. But a key leadership group, due to be chaired by the First Minister and attended by ministers and COSLA, has not been set up. Without it, there is no dedicated route for the NSET delivery board to escalate major concerns.

Good connections have been made across the Scottish Government to support the economic strategy’s delivery. But it is not clear how different parts of the government are working together to agree funding priorities. This could hamper the NSET delivery board’s ability to influence ministerial decision-making and shape the delivery of the strategy.

Ministers have set out high-level measures of success for each NSET programme. But many measures lack a target; for example, the number of new businesses surviving beyond three years. The Scottish Government has also not set out how much investment is needed to deliver its economic strategy. This creates a risk to financial management and public accountability.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said:

“Making the shift to a wellbeing economy whilst also increasing tax revenue is a substantial challenge.

“Collective political leadership remains vital, and the government needs to better understand the cost and affordability of its plans so it can prioritise spending decisions.

“This is especially important at a time of continued pressure on public finances.”

Audit Scotland has prepared this report for the Auditor General for Scotland. All Audit Scotland reports published since 2000 are available at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk

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