Scottish Government consultation on the Resource Spending Review Framework

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) welcome the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Resource Spending Review (RSR) Framework.

Whilst the three priorities guiding the RSR are laudable, the paper calls for their revision to, for example, acknowledge the severity of the climate and biodiversity crises and the implications of rising energy prices as key drivers of public spending. Similarly, the constraints facing the wider fiscal landscape, including the impact of rising inflation on for example, public sector pay, should be fully accounted for within the RSR.

The paper also calls for the RSR to account for existing policy commitments, such as the establishment of a National Care Service which prioritises preventative spending and non-clinical solutions to implement a high quality, human-rights driven self-directed social care system. In tandem, the RSR should provide supportive routes into the public sector workforce through fully funded training packages to support skills development, and facilitate a shift away from precarious short-term contracts to counter high staff turnover rates and build institutional memory.

To this end, the RSR should support new methods of interdisciplinary, collaborative working to provide a testbed for the transformation of public services through experimental policy creation. Crucially, this should give due attention to any lessons learned from specific examples that could be scaled-up to support targeted spending decisions, and aid the prioritisation of spending initiatives more generally. As such, the RSR should meaningfully collaborate with local communities who use and are supported by a service as a central element of the decision-making process to increase public awareness of the review and ensure wide societal buy-in.

The RSE would be pleased to further engage with the Scottish Government on the RSR, perhaps in the form of a roundtable or other engagement work, and would welcome any correspondence on this.

Paper summary

The RSE welcome the Resource Spending Review (RSR) Framework and multi-year spending plan. However, we believe that the Scottish Government should show more clearly how its priorities align with the primary drivers of public spending and means of getting best value out of public services in Scotland, as outlined in the Review.

The RSR should acknowledge that the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss will impact on all other policy areas, adding to costs and making targets more difficult to achieve. They should be recognised as overarching priorities and as primary drivers of public spending.

The RSR should acknowledge the other economic pressures likely to be faced in the next five years, for example, inflation generally and specifically the impact of public sector wage inflation on the Scottish Government’s spending capacity.

The RSR must account for the costs of fulfilling existing policy commitments, such as the establishment of the National Care Service and expanded Social Security payments, in relation to the priorities outlined, and set out how this will impact spending.

The relative weakness of the Scottish economy threatens to undermine other policy ambitions. Therefore, the RSR should make measures to promote an efficient, highly skilled economy a priority, alongside addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, and developing stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities.

Download this Advice Paper