Tory conference

Ross calls for financial transparency at Holyrood

Douglas Ross: ‘we need more openness on spending’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross will today call for greater financial transparency in government business.

Mr Ross has unveiled plans for an “Open the Books Bill” that will ensure the public knows how every penny is spent by ministers.

He said the proposed member’s bill would aim to end a culture of secrecy and lack of clarity in government budgeting. Just this week an Audit Scotland report highlighted a lack of data around the allocation of Covid support grants and loans to businesses making it difficult to provide detailed analysis.

Mr Ross announced his proposed bill ahead of the first day of the Scottish Conservative Conference in Aberdeen which will welcome Prime Minister Boris Johnson – despite a call by Mr Ross and most other Tory MSPs for him to resign over the Downing Street Christmas parties scandal.

Earlier this year 27 of the 31 Tory MSPs demanded the Prime Minister step down, but Mr Ross later withdrew his letter to the 1922 backbench committee in order to support Mr Johnson’s handling of the Ukraine conflict.

Today the Scottish leader will turn his attention on the Scottish Government’s record on transparency and has outlined a bill that would require it to publish

  • a quarterly update of the Budget, including a statement from the Finance Secretary 
  • monthly data on the uptake and payouts from each fund it operates 
  • a value-for-money statement ahead of taking ownership of any private enterprise

Mr Ross said: “The public should be able to find out how every penny of their money is spent.  Our Open the Books Bill would strengthen financial transparency and government accountability. 

“Too often, the vast sums that the SNP have at their disposal is shrouded in secrecy. We’ve all seen SNP ministers insist that they’re skint, only to hastily find another hundred million to spend. 

“Just this week, Audit Scotland highlighted serious flaws in the transparency of Covid business grants, caused by a lack of information. 

“There is a pressing need to open the books so that taxpayers can get better value for money. We’re building the real alternative to the SNP, so we can end the secrecy that is holding Scotland back.” 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will address the conference remotely at lunchtime today.

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