MORE than £8.8 billion is estimated to have been spent by the Scottish Government from its allocation of £9.3bn to support spending on Covid-19 in the fiscal year 2020/21.

However, the Auditor General for Scotland has warned that transparency around what is classed as Covid-19 spending across government portfolios remains challenging in what he called a fast-moving and unpredictable environment.

To date, more than 300 individual spending measures have been announced, with the largest amounts going to business, health and social care, and local government.

Spending has been funded by £8.6bn of additional Barnett consequentials from the UK Government in 2020/21, and by re-allocating funding from existing budgets.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said £1.15bn in Barnett funding was carried over to the 2021/22 budget, but the UK Government has not guaranteed the level of Barnett funding for 2021/22 as it did in 2020/21.

The National: Auditor General for Scotland Stephen BoyleAuditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle

READ MORE: Covid jags for over-12s and booster shots for over-50s, Nicola Sturgeon announces

He said this makes medium-term financial planning and dealing with uncertainties arising from the pandemic more challenging.

Boyle said: “As Scotland moves into the recovery phase from the pandemic, it will likely become increasingly difficult to define what is, and what isn’t, Covid-19 spending.

“The Scottish Government is managing financial pressures which predate the pandemic, such as spending on health and social care.

“That means difficult decisions lie ahead and, despite the challenges, it increases the need for a medium-term plan to manage the levels of uncertainty and volatility facing the Scottish budget.”

Transparency has also suffered because of the pandemic, the report said, with it becoming harder for government to be fully open about spending decisions due to the fast-paced nature of the emergency.

“The Scottish Government published its latest medium-term financial strategy alongside the 2021/22 Scottish budget,” said the report.

“This sets out its assessment of Scotland’s economic and fiscal outlook, as well as a broad spending outlook considering the effects of changing funding levels for government spending. It will be important that the Scottish Government continues to update this to ensure that the wider context for the 2022/23 budget and beyond is understood.”

However, the report claimed the Scottish Government was reviewing past spending decisions to collate all Covid-19 related pledges, and said it will become harder to classify coronavirus-specific spending as the country moves into the recovery phase.

The report said: “Having a clear picture of how initiatives at each level of Government are working together to respond to and recover from the pandemic is needed to properly understand the effectiveness of Covid-19 measures and to support budgeting and financial planning.”