BBC Scotland Business Editor casts doubt on SFT savings figure

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By Martin Kelly
 
A BBC Scotland reporter has cast doubt on the accuracy of savings announced yesterday by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT).
 
Douglas Fraser (pictured), who is the broadcaster’s Business and Economy Editor for Scotland, claimed yesterday that the SFT were “not beyond spinning” the figure of £131 million annual savings the body announced yesterday.

By Martin Kelly
 
A BBC Scotland reporter has cast doubt on the accuracy of savings announced yesterday by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT).
 
Douglas Fraser (pictured), who is the broadcaster’s Business and Economy Editor for Scotland, claimed yesterday that the SFT were “not beyond spinning” the figure of £131 million annual savings the body announced yesterday.

In a report on the savings announcement, the BBC reporter also described the trusts published figure as having only “some credibility”, despite it having been verified by respected accountants Grant Thornton and the London School of Economics.

The criticism from the BBC correspondent followed the publication of savings the trust say will allow them to build an extra twelve schools in Scotland.

However, Mr Fraser, a former political journalist at the Herald newspaper, appeared to suggest the success was not as clear cut as the announcement indicated, and said: “These are the Scottish Futures Trust figures themselves, it’s not been done by outsiders.

“It’s been validated by the accountants Grant Thornton and the London School of Economics, which gives it some credibility, but I don’t think it is beyond spinning the figures.

“It all depends on what your starting point is and an awful lot of the savings they’ve claimed in past years has come from the very expensive rate of employing private sector consultants.”

In a report for Radio Scotland Mr Fraser appeared to play down the success of the SFT, repeatedly drawing attention to what he claimed was a lack of success in tackling the excessive profits of PFI contracts – one of the key aims of the body set up by the SNP.

Mr Fraser claimed that the SFT had not delivered quite as expected in the area of PFI and had found other roles instead.  He claimed that PFI savings accounted for “only” £7million of the £131million.

The BBC Scotland reporter said: “The SNP government set this up, it had three full years of operating.  It wanted the Scottish Futures Trust – it was an idea when it was in opposition to replace PFI, the Private Finance Initiative and variations on that, which were seen to have excessive profits for the financiers who were funding these public projects.

“Now it hasn’t worked quite as expected, the savings on that only account for less than £7million of the £131million it is claimed it is saving, or generating for the public purse for projects.”

Speaking in the same report, Sir Angus Grossart, who chairs the SFT, described the PFI contracts that had been negotiated by the last Labour administration as “unsatisfactory” and “not properly defined or disciplined”.

The financier insisted the body had been able to “bring that discipline into the process”.

The SFT have now been asked by the Scottish Government to bring the same cost saving measures to existing public estate with the aim of saving £500million over five years.

Hear Mr Fraser’s full report