Documents published on the budget deal struck between the SNP and Scottish Greens “only partially answer” how it will be funded, according to a new analysis.
The Scottish Government announced a deal with the Greens on Wednesday, with an extra £173 million to be spent on local government, climate change, policing and could see the implementation of free bus travel.
It was not officially announced how much the bus travel scheme would cost, however a letter from Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to the Greens showed that £15 million has been set aside to cover “due dilligence”.
The first stage of the budget will be voted on by MSPs on Thursday and is expected to pass following the agreement.
A new blog by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has questioned how the plans will be funded.
The analysis said: “So how will these additional funding commitments totalling £173 million be funded?
“The letter outlining the terms of the deal provides only partial answers to this question.”
During her announcement of the draft budget, Ms Forbes said all available funding had been allocated and parties looking to broker a deal would need to explain where increased spending was coming from.
But the new deal has been struck without any cuts to proposals for spending in other services.
The Scottish Government explained that £25 million of the increases would be covered by underspend, a further £50 million from the re-profiling of distribution of business rates and the remaining £98 million will come from anticipated income from the fossil fuel levy and expected Barnett consequentials as a result of the UK budget.
The Spice blog questioned how the Scottish Government can be sure the consequentials will be forthcoming from the UK Budget, which is due to be announced on March 11, six days after the expected passage of the Scottish budget.
The blog said: “It is not clear whether the Scottish Government has received private assurances from UK Treasury that this money (which will be laid out in law when the Budget Bill 2020-21 is passed) will be forthcoming, and if there is an alternative plan if this resource is not forthcoming in the UK Budget planned for just under two weeks’ time.”
it also claimed some of the cash which will come from business rates will be from expected receipts over the coming years.
“To fund this element of the budget deal, the Government is essentially bringing forward an additional £50 million from forecast increases in future non-domestic rates income to fund the 2020-21 budget,” the blog said.
“The Government states that the account will be brought back into balance in 2022-23.”
The analysis added assertions about funding from the fossil fuel levy were “possibly even more uncertain”, adding: “There was no mention at all of this levy or policy in the Scottish budget documentation.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “As set out in the budget agreement letter from the Finance Secretary, the additional investment agreed this week for the Scottish budget will be funded through limited amounts of underspend, taking a multi-year approach to non-domestic rates management, and additional consequentials, including from the fossil fuel levy.”