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About the Scottish Parliament

What is the Scottish Budget Process?

Every year the Scottish Government sets out a plan of how it plans to spend the money it receives from the UK Government and from taxes raised in Scotland

It introduces a Budget Bill. This must be looked at by MSPs and needs to get approval from the Scottish Parliament.

Committee scrutiny

Every year the Scottish Government plans how it will spend money by creating a budget. Committees are responsible for examining the budgets for their subject areas. They can do this by:

  • looking at how the Scottish Government has used money, and how it plans to spend money in the future
  • sending reports or letters to the Scottish Government before it publishes the budget, to help their thinking about the budget
  • examining the Budget Bill and questioning ministers about it
  • putting forward their own suggestions if they don’t agree with the Scottish Government’s spending plans

Throughout the year, they look at how money has been spent and what outcomes have been achieved. They also look at where it needs to be spent in the future. They can get views from:

  • Scottish Government ministers
  • organisations
  • members of the public

Each committee prepares a pre-budget report. The report recommends how the Scottish Government should spend money in the coming year.

These reports are sent to the relevant Scottish Government minister or ministers normally at least 6 weeks before the Scottish Budget is published.

The Scottish Government responds to each report and sets out how the reports influenced its spending plans. These plans are set out in the Scottish Budget.

There is a debate in the Chamber on these pre-budget reports before the Budget Bill is debated in the Chamber at Stage 1.

Stages of the Scottish Budget Bill

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

  • Stage 1: There is a debate in the Chamber on the general principles of the Bill
  • Stage 2: Changes to the Bill can be suggested by Scottish Government ministers. These are considered by the Finance and Constitution Committee
  • Stage 3: MSPs decide on any further changes proposed by Scottish Government ministers and vote on whether to pass the Bill.

Passing of the Scottish Budget Bill

If the Budget Bill is passed and receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act.

The Scottish Government aims to have the Bill passed by the end of February each year so it’s ready for the start of the new financial year in April.

From April, the Scottish Government and other public bodies start to put in place the spending commitments set out in the Act.

Scottish Parliament committees look at the impact of how the budget is being spent and how money should be spent in the future. This work feeds into their continuous all year budget scrutiny work.

Income tax rates and bands

Proposed income tax rates and bands are not part of the Budget Bill. They are set out by the Scottish Government in a “Scottish rate resolution” (SRR).

Before the final stage of the Budget Bill, MSPs must consider the SSR. They do this by voting on a motion in the Chamber. The agreed rate applies from April each year.

Watch a BSL video about the Scottish budget process


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