SCOTTISH Enterprise has been criticised by a Holyrood committee for underspending on its budget.

The Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee has released its pre-budget scrutiny report and is calling for action on Scottish Enterprise’s “unacceptable” underspend.

The committee also criticised the fact that the enterprise agencies “set and mark their own homework” and called for ambitious and stretching targets.

The committee’s pre-budget scrutiny report this year focused on the roles of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, along with employability programmes including Fair Start Scotland.

These employability programmes were scrutinised with recommendations provided on how to help more people in Scotland get into work. The committee highlighted the need for more funds to be directed into interventions such as those integrating mental health and employability support.

In the report, the committee also recommends that Scottish Enterprise takes urgent action to ensure its £10m Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme budget is spent and that they provide an update every six months. It says Scottish Enterprise and Highland and Islands Enterprise should set targets that are “sufficiently challenging and ambitious”.

The convener of the Economy, Energy and Fair Works Committee, Gordon Lindhurst MSP said: “With only £500,000 invested by Scottish Enterprise out of a pot of £10 million, the committee is concerned that there has been a lack of progress in committing the money for the Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme. We urge Scottish Enterprise to take action to ensure this money is used to benefit the Scottish economy.

“More funds should also be put into employability programmes focusing on mental health. It is vital for the economy that we can promote and support employment and encourage fair work, and we will continue to scrutinise these issues in future inquiries.”