By Lynda Williamson
Scottish Labour Party shadow Finance spokesperson Iain Gray’s is quoted in the Scotsman newspaper attacking the way in which the Scottish government reports the cost of major infrastructure projects. The Scotsman report states that Mr Gray accused the government of not reporting the full costs of several such projects. The former leader of Labour’s MSPs in Holyrood brandished it “astonishing” that there is no standard framework for reporting.
The attacks have however backfired after Scotland’s top civil servant, Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government appeared before Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee. In his evidence Sir Peter confirmed that regular updates on the costs of capital projects to the committee did not begin until 2009.
During the time that Iain Gray was Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Minister – a post where he was in charge of major infrastructure projects – there was no regular reporting framework in place at all.
The SNP government began giving regular updates to the Public Audit Committee on major infrastructure projects in 2009. Earlier this year they extended the updates to cover smaller projects and began to make them available to the public by posting them online.
Mr Gray’s record of inactivity contrasts with the proactive approach by the SNP government leaving him open to accusations of hypocrisy. Meanwhile Sir Peter has also assured MSPs that the government is “open to suggestions” as to how its reporting process can be further improved.
Commenting, SNP MSP Bob Doris who is a member of the Public Audit Committee said:
“Iain Gray’s time in office may have been a forgettable one for everyone else, but you would expect that he at least would know his own track record.
“It is pretty embarrassing for him to have launched a boomerang attack like this when his own performance on this issue doesn’t hold a candle to the active steps the Scottish Government has taken to increase accountability for public projects.
“It just smacks of hypocrisy to attack the Scottish Government’s record when it far outstrips Iain Gray’s own when he was the responsible Minister.
“The simple fact is that unlike when Iain Gray was in office, the SNP Government has made significant improvements to
the way in which the costs of major projects are reported and I was reassured that they are always open to making further improvements.
“Perhaps instead of being so quick to make these kinds of attacks, Iain Gray would have been better served reflecting on his own failure to act in this area when he was Enterprise, Transport & Lifelong Learning Minister.”