The Finance Committee criticizes the government for its lack of planning for the Circular Economy Act


Holyrood’s finance and public administration committee has released another report criticizing the Scottish Government for its lack of financial planning in the legislative process.

The report relates to the committee’s scrutiny of Scotland’s circular economy bill, which was tabled by Greens minister Lorna Slater in June and calls for ministers to help develop a circular economy that reuses materials rather than sending them to waste.

The committee, which heard evidence from Slater in early November, was scathing about the funding memorandum that was part of the bill, saying it “underestimates the costs in relation to enforcement, education and communications campaigns and the infrastructure needed to ensure that local authorities are capable of complying with a binding code”.

While the bill states that “all parts of Scottish society” will need to “play their part” in building a more circular economy, it notes that the legislation will “primarily provide enabling powers” and that secondary legislation will be required further down the line. line.

It is estimated that implementing the primary legislation would cost the Scottish Government £1.6m over three years. The cost to each local authority over the same period would be just over £200,000, while the bill the Scottish Environment Agency would face was estimated at almost £900,000.

In its analysis of the figures, the committee said it was “not convinced that the Financial Memorandum as it stands meets the requirements set out in Parliament’s Rules of Procedure to provide ‘the best estimates of the costs, savings and changes in income that the provisions of the Bill would produce'”.

He was also critical of the fact that secondary legislation would be needed to fully implement the bill, noting that the use of such “framework bills” “does not allow the best estimates of all costs, savings and changes in revenue to be identified” (and) effectively undermines parliamentary scrutiny “.

“The committee is disappointed that the Scottish Government does not appear to have learned from the recommendations we made in relation to our examination of previous financial memoranda and the post-legislative review where we set out our expectations for the level of financial data, clarity and transparency required,” the report states.

“Ultimately, it will be up to Parliament to decide whether, when voting on the general principles of the framework law, the results the bill seeks to achieve will outweigh any financial or affordability considerations.”

A year ago, the committee issued a highly critical report ahead of the Scottish Budget, saying affordability “does not appear to be a key factor in Scottish Government decision-making” and that there is “little evidence” that ministers have long “long-term access to public money”.

A few weeks later, she expressed “significant concerns” about the cost of the Scottish Government’s proposed national care service, noting that the legislation did not come with a “total estimate” of the costs, which she stressed had the potential to be “significant”.

Earlier this year she reprimanded the then social care minister, Kevin Stewart, for failing to provide more information on the bill.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance and local government secretary Liz Smith said the report represented “a damning verdict by the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee on key legislation brought forward by the SNP-Green government”.

“The complete lack of financial transparency in the Circular Economy Act shows that Lorna Slater has clearly failed to learn from her shambolic handling of the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme,” she said.

“Lorna Slater cannot hide from the serious questions raised about this bill. They must ensure that they respond to this message as a matter of urgency.

LibDem economy spokesman Willie Rennie was equally scathing, saying Slater “was responsible for a series of proposals that were half-hearted at best”.

“The committee has the right to hold the government to account for the poor quality of its proposals,” he said.

“Even passionate supporters of this bill realize that simply allowing the government to push falsified numbers is a recipe for disaster.

“If the finance committee sighs every time they see her name attached to some piece of legislation, just imagine how the businesses and stakeholders who have to deal with the fallout feel?”

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