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Social protection only area seeing ‘rapid’ spending growth, analysis finds

The Scottish government’s budget was analysed (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Scottish government’s budget was analysed (Jane Barlow/PA)

Social protection is the only area of the Scottish Government’s spending plans which has seen rapid and steady growth in real terms over the last three years, an analysis has found.

The independent Scottish Fiscal Commission has published a new analysis of the government’s draft budget which was unveiled in December.

It found that spending in the social protection category – which is largely made up of social security and benefits payments – increased by 28% in real terms between 2022/23 and 2024/25.

Meanwhile, it found that health spending has not kept up with inflation over the same period, largely due to a reduction in capital spending.

The commission’s analysis used United Nations definitions on the functions of government spending, rather than breaking the budget down by departmental portfolios.

The report said: “Social protection is the only one of the three major areas of public expenditure seeing steady and rapid growth over the three-year period.

“This is a result of UK-wide trends for rising spending on disability benefits as well as Scottish Government commitments on social security and the linking of payment rates to inflation.”

It continued: “Spending on health, by far the largest component of the Scottish budget, has not kept up with inflation.

“Currently we expect spending in 2024-25 to be around 1% below 2022-23 levels in real terms.”

Commenting on the report, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Dame Jackie Baillie said: “This damning analysis has exposed the truth behind the SNP’s dodgy sums and empty spin – our health service is facing cuts.

“Years of SNP mismanagement have left waiting lists at an all-time high, services at breaking point and staff exhausted.

“The SNP must deliver a fair deal for health and social care in next year’s budget, as well as setting out a real plan to tackle the dangerous chaos in our NHS.”