The new budget process

Year-round process

The Scottish Parliament’s budget scrutiny is now a “year-round” process that begins in May each year. This allows the Parliament to influence the Scottish Government’s budget before it is published. 

The Scottish Government has agreed to publish a Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in May every year. 

The Scottish Government is also committed to publishing a Fiscal Framework Outturn Report (FFOR) each September.

Information will be published on what public bodies will aim to achieve through their spending. Budget scrutiny will focus on the results – or outcomes – of public spending. 

These new documents will help the Scottish Parliament’s committees to scrutinise Scottish Government spending. 

Pre-budget reports

Scottish Parliament subject committees have direct input to the budget process. Six weeks before the Scottish Government publishes its budget proposals, each subject committee publishes its pre-budget report giving its views on the delivery and funding of existing policy priorities, any proposed changes, and how these should be funded. In this way, Scottish Parliament committees can influence the Scottish Government’s budget before it is published.  

The Budget Bill supporting document

The Scottish Government responds to each committee's suggestions in the Budget Bill supporting document within three weeks of the publication of the UK Budget. Any proposed amendments are debated in the Scottish Parliament prior to stage 1 of the bill.

The Budget Bill

The Scottish Government will then introduce its Budget Bill. The Budget Bill sets out the Scottish Government’s spending in law. This must be passed by the Scottish Parliament. (Link to Laws animation).

As the Budget Bill makes its way through the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government will respond to these Committee reports. Representatives of each Committee will give their views in the Chamber.  They discuss whether the Scottish Government has met Committee priorities in the Budget. 

Stages of the bill

Once the Budget Bill is introduced, it must go through 3 stages.

There is a stage 1 debate in the Chamber on the general principles of the bill, when MSPs can put forward alternative proposals. This usually takes place in January.

At stage 2, the Finance and Constitution Committee examines the Budget Bill in detail and any proposed amendments (changes). Only Scottish Government Ministers can propose amendments at stages 2 and 3.

Stage 3 takes place in the Chamber. MSPs consider any further amendments. They then debate and vote on whether to pass the bill.

If the Budget Bill is passed, there is a 4-week period before it can receive Royal Assent and become an act of the Scottish Parliament.

As the new financial year starts in April, the Scottish Government aims to have the bill passed by the end of February.

From April, the Scottish Government and other public bodies start to implement the spending commitments set out in the act.

Outcomes

Scottish Parliament committees look at the impact of how the budget is being spent and future spending priorities. This work will feed into their next pre-budget reports.

For more detailed information on the new budget process, see our SPICe briefing.

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