The timing of the Scottish budget 2020/21: implications, uncertainties and risks

So now we know: the UK Budget will be presented on 11 March, having been postponed from its original date of 6 November.

What are the implications for the Scottish budget?

It seems now inevitable that the Scottish budget will have to be published in some form before 11 March.

One option is to seek to finalise all elements of the budget before the UK budget. An alternative, (with the agreement of Parliament) would be to push some final elements of the legislative process back to the second half of March, potentially allowing for last minute adjustments.

Either scenario is undoubtedly sub-optimal for the Scottish Government, Parliament, and a range of other organisations, from local authorities to Revenue Scotland.

But the idea that the Scottish budget can be delayed in full until mid to late March seems unrealistic.

Publishing a Scottish budget before the UK budget does carry uncertainties and risks, however. But what options are open to the Scottish Government to try to mitigate these challenges?Continue reading

January 8, 2020

New labour market data…

New labour market data were out earlier today, covering all the headline estimates for Scotland and the UK.

These showed that the Scottish unemployment rate hit 3.7% in the three months to October 2019, down -0.3% points on the three months before and down -0.1% on a year before.

Meanwhile the employment rate hit 74.5%, down -0.4% points on the three months before and down -0.5% points on a year ago.

In this blog we pull out a few important points from today’s data.

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December 17, 2019

2019 General Election: a review of the manifestos from a Scottish perspective

Inevitably, the defining feature of all the manifestos this election is the spectre of constitutional change.

For the UK-wide parties this is an issue of Brexit (or stopping Brexit), whilst in Scotland there is the added question of independence.

Beyond these major constitutional debates, reading UK election manifestos can feel a strange business from a Scottish perspective. Most of the policy pledges relate to areas that are devolved, with the next Holyrood election not for another 18 months.

Nonetheless, these pledges will still have major implications for Scotland’s budget, whilst also framing the view of what policies might be politically viable here. This is true for spending commitments, but it is now increasingly true of tax policy too.

The choices facing the electorate are stark, not just on the constitution but also day-to-day tax and spending choices. It is no surprise that with so much uncertainty, Derek Mackay has shelved plans for a pre-Christmas Scottish Budget

So what do the manifestos imply for Scotland and the Scottish Budget?Continue reading

December 2, 2019

The Scottish budget 2020/21: postponed for now… but til when?

The Scottish Government had been due to publish its draft budget for 2020/21 on 12th December.

The postponement of the UK Government’s budget – which had been scheduled for 6th November – had already thrown the status of the Scottish budget date into doubt. But the announcement of the General Election on the 12th December clearly necessitated a postponement of the Scottish budget. The Scottish Government announced last week that the Scottish budget will not be published until after Christmas.

But given that we don’t know when the next UK budget will be, when should we expect the Scottish budget? Is it even possible for the Scottish budget to be published before the UK budget, and what would be the implications if it was?Continue reading

November 18, 2019

2019 Sir Alexander Stone Lecture: ‘Brexit: the unanswered questions for UK and Scottish policymakers’

Introduction

Thank you Andrew and can I add my welcome to everyone for coming along this evening.

I must confess to only knowing of Sir Alexander Stone as the name on the building at Glasgow where my economics lectures used to be held.

For those of you who don’t know, he was a banker and philanthropist helping to support a number of notable cause across the country.

He was also the son of Jewish parents who fled Russia in the early 20th century to escape persecution.

In these current times, it does no harm to be reminded of our shared history and the importance of human values, respect, tolerance and solidarity.

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November 6, 2019